[OPE-L:4656] Re: real wages and the rate of surplus value

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 7 Apr 1997 06:38:54 -0700 (PDT)

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Ajit wrote in [OPE-L:4655]:

> However, the passage you have quoted from 'Resultate' confirms exactly my
> point rather than Mike's or yours. Nowhere Marx indicates that trade union
> struggles would succeed in raising the real wages over a secular time
> period. [...]

My point concerned the logical structure of _Capital_ and the theoretical
status of workers' struggles and self-activity.

I have a very simple question for you: [irrespective of what Marx did or
did not write so that we don't get into a long exchange of Marx quotes]:
can trade union struggles succeed in raising real wages over time?

If you answer "yes", then I have a couple of follow-up questions:

(1) where was this subject developed more concretely in _Capital_?

(2) From a _logical_ perspective, does this subject require greater
concretization? I.e. a) *if* we take real wages as "given" at a particular
moment of time, aren't we required logically to explain how and where
real wages are NOT given; and b) where logically, in terms of an order of
presentation, would such a subject be developed?

> [...] By the way,
> where did Marx say that he was going to write 'a history of trade union
> movement in England'?

Nowhere, that I know of. The issue I posed before did not concern
developing a conjunctural account of the role of trade unions within a
given social formation. Rather, it concerned the place within a systematic
dialectical investigation of the capitalist mode of production where the
subject of trade unions and the self-activity of workers is incorporated
and developed within that theory.

> Where is women's movement discussed by Marx?

Not in _Capital_.

> Let us not confuse issues. Are
> we talking about Marx's writings or we talking about contemporary western
> culture? I thought we were discussing Marx's writings, particularly from
> 1861 onwords.

I agree that clarification is required in order to avoid confusion. *Part*
of what we have been discussing is the meaning of real wages in Marx's
writings. Another part, at least the part I am most interested in
discussing, concerns the determination of real wages within a systematic
investigation of the bourgeois mode of production. To be sure, to be able
to discuss *my* question, we also have to discuss *your* question. Yet,
although they are inter-related questions (explanation and critique of
Marx + further development of categories of concretion related to
conceptualizing capitalism), they are also somewhat different questions.

> The questions we are dealing with relates to 'normal'
> situations within capitalist economies and not abnormal or revolutionary
> situations.

I think that a *dynamic* theory has to explain both the "normal" and the
"abnormal". I.e. rather than simply assert that the "normal" is a given,
theory must explain *deviations* from the "normal" and the _process_
whereby the normal is reproduced and _altered_.

> >Has the relative surplus population in these countries of Western Europe
> >exhibited a secular trend upwards in the XX century? Has there been a
> >secular trend for real wages to decrease in these countries during this
> >century? I think not.
> Again you are confusing Marx's writings with contemporary western world.

I am not confusing issues (as explained above). Rather, we have been
discussing some separate but inter-related issues. From *my* perspective,
Marx's writings have to be subject to critique both on logical and
empirical grounds. On empirical grounds, I question the assertion that
real wages have decreased over time under capitalism. On logical grounds,
I question the logical basis for believing that real wages would decline
over time under capitalism.

> Marx could be wrong about his historical predictions. Did I ever deny
> that? [...]

No, you didn't. But, the question as *I* see it does not concern the
validity of Marx's "predictions." Rather it concerns the way in which this
subject can be better understood both logically and empirically.

Re the rate of exploitation:

> All your arguments seem to be a simple statement that capitalism cannot
> function without money. Now, who in the world has denied that point. I,
> for
> sure, have never did that. You need to come up with arguments against the
> theoretical problems I have raised regarding the measurement of 'values' or
> 'labor contents' by arbitrary money-commodity. You haven't done that.

I *thought* I responded to your question. My basic point is that c, v, and
s must all be expressed as *money* magnitudes because of the nature of the

> As far
> as your questions regarding whether goods are sold or not is concerned.
> Keep
> in mind that Marx distinguishes between 'market prices' and prices of
> production. Prices of productions are the gravitational points around which
> the 'market prices' are supposed to fluctuate. The fluctualtions would bring
> about the allocation of labor such that realization problem would vanish at
> the prices of production. This is the "law" part of the 'law of value'.

I don't agree. I see no textual or logical basis for asserting, *except by
assumption*, that commodity values will necessarily become realized. As
for PoP and market prices, I think we should ask *if* and/or *how*
PoP become _tendencially_ realized. For us to answer that question, a
dynamic analysis is required rather than a comparative statics analysis.

I'm tired (having been exhausted by the EEA conference), so I'll cut-off
this post here. However, if I failed to address any of your questions, I
will be pleased to explain more later.

In solidarity, Jerry