[OPE-L:4523] Re: determination of real wages

Michael A. Lebowit (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Tue, 25 Mar 1997 12:17:52 -0800 (PST)

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Previous message: Michael A. Lebowitz: "[OPE-L:4524] Re: Mandel vs. Baran-Sweezy"

A quick response to Ajit. Yes, you are right-- I am on my island (not
mine, and about 300 people live here) although not entirely enjoying it---
given the burst plumbing (from the winter), the malfunctioning generator and
the run of storms which are depriving me of the necessary sun to keep my
solar power system happy. This latter problem plus my limited sources here
will keep me brief.

In message Sat, 22 Mar 1997 23:15:28 -0800 (PST),
Ajit Sinha <ecas@cc.newcastle.edu.au> writes:

>First of
> all, why quote six words and insert something of your own and then quote
> three more words? The whole sentence here was quite short itself. So, let
> me put it in the context. This quote is taken from the very first short
> paragraph of Chapter 20, entitled 'Time Wages". The whole paragraph reads:
> "Wages themselves again take many forms. This fact is not apparent from
> the ordinary economic treatises, which, in their crude obession with the
> material side [Stoff], ignore all differences of form. An exposition of
> all these forms belongs to the special study of wage-labour, and not,
> therefore, to this work. Nevertheless, we shall have to give a brief
> discription of the two fundamental forms here."
> So as you can see, he is talking about various forms of wages. Two
> *fundamental* ones, i.e. time wage and piece wage, he is going to discuss
> there. However, there could be various other forms of wages, like salary
> wages, contract wages, etc. But these aspects of detail do not belong to
> this *work*. A separate work on wage-labour should take all these details
> into account. Now, when we look into the two *fundamental* forms of wages
> that Marx talks about in *Capital*, we find that trade unions and workes
> struggle to raise wages do not figure. Now, to think that this aspect was
> going to be discussed in those secondary forms of wages would be too much
> of a streatch.

Ajit, you appear to be concluding that because Marx says here that the
separate work will discuss the forms of the wages this is the *only* thing
it will include. This is a logical error. I cited this reference to
illustrate that Marx was *still* in his last edition of Vol I talking about
the book on wage-labour that he first mentioned in 1857, which after all is
a rather long period in which he was consistent. He also was consistent on
what the book would include:

--in the Grundrisse, he notes that the "chapter treating of wage labour"
will consider how the standard of necessary labour changes and that he is
treating it as fixed initially to avoid confounding everything.
--in his letter to Engels in 4/58 about the 6 books, he notes that the
assumption that wages`are at their minimum will be removed and that
movements in wages and the rise or fall of that minimum will be considered
under wage labour.
-- in the 1861-63 mss (which I cited earlier), he indicates that movements
in the level of workers needs and the rise and fall of wages does not belong
in the discussion of capital but in the investigation of wage labour in
-- in the 1864-5 notes (Results of the Immediate Process of Production), he
states: "The level of the necessaries of life whose total value constitutes
the value of labour-power can itself rise or fall. The analysis of these
variations, however, belongs not here but in the theory of wages."
-- finally, as noted, there is Capital itself, which demonstrates (1) Marx
did not incorporate the above issues into Capital and (2) was still talking
about the separate work on wage labour.

> But most importantly, let us look into what Marx could have meant by the
> "special study of wage-labour" which does not belong to "this work".
> Nowhere there is a hint that the "special study" was a study which Marx
> had planned to conduct himself. We all refer to such special studies in
> our own works without ever planning to do such special work ourselves.

Irrelevant. The point is that Marx recognised that it had to be done, and
that leaving things as they were in Capital--- with the assumption that the
standard of necessity is given--- is leaving things incomplete. So, if you
prefer to think that this is a job for us, to write the book on wage-labour
and to remove that assumption that the standard of necessity is given (ie,
the iron assumption of wages), then we are in agreement. In any event, it is
rather difficult to see how in the face of the above you could continue to
hold that the only thing Marx didn't bother to do in this respect was to
explore the "secondary aspects of various forms of wages".

> If he intended to do this work himself, he wouldn't classify it as not
> belonging to the work. Specially, if he thought that it would contain the
> other half of his thesis. Not even a footnote to elaborate on this point?
> Certainly he didn't intend to do this superfecial secondary aspects of
> various forms of wages. And certainly there is no way one could think that
> that's where all the good stuff is hiding. Thus, we can conclude that a
> close examination of Mike Lebowitz's prize evidence in support of his
> thesis reveals that it simply does not hold water. And that is why I had
> no reason to change my opinion since the pen-l debate. Cheers, ajit sinha
Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department, Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office: (604) 291-4669; Office fax: (604) 291-5944
Home: (604) 872-0494; Home fax: (604) 872-0485
Lasqueti Island: (250) 333-8810
e-mail: mlebowit@sfu.ca