[OPE-L:4736] Re: real wages and the rate of surplus value

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Fri, 11 Apr 1997 17:45:13 -0700 (PDT)

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Ajit wrote in [OPE-L:4726]:

> Suppose technology is unchanging, and the rate of growth of population is
> constant. Now, let us suppose that the rate of accumulation rises.
> Unemployment falls and real wages rise. The rise in real wages would lower
> the rate of profit, and thus the rate of accumulation. So the rate of
> growth of the demand for labor would decline. Unemployment would rise,
> and the real wages would fall.

That sounds like the "story" told in VI, Ch. 25, Part One. Yet the story
that we observe in Part One ("a growing demand for labour-power
accompanies accumulation if the composition of capital remains the same")
is modified when the composition of capital increases (e.g. in Part
Three where there is "the progressive production of a relative surplus
population or industrial reserve army").

[An important topic worthy of discussion concerns the meaning of the
"general law of capitalist accumulation", its place within the overall
logical structure of _Capital_, and whether that "law" has manifested
itself in the manner in which Marx anticipated. I would say that the
"law" is better understood as a tendency in which we have to consider
countervailing tendencies. I would also say that the so-called
"immiserization thesis' (not exactly Marx's expression) needs
to be reevaluated as a result of historical developments since Marx's

> Thus, in a dynamic case, the balanced path would ensure
> that real wages would remain constant and the rate of accumulation
> would be equal to the rate of growth of population.

Except as a formal possibility, I don't think it is appropriate to
picture the accumulation process in terms of a "balanced path." Indeed,
there is very little about capitalism which could be described as

> The constant real wages I'm talking about are the gravitational points
> around which the real wages during the business cycle fluctuates.

What is the "gravitational force" that would maintain constant real
wages? I agree that changes in the size of the industrial reserve army
and changes in the demand for labour-power that accompany changes in the
rate of accumulation are *part* of the process that helps to explain
fluctuations in real wages. Yet it is _only_ part of the picture and
there are many other variables that can cause real wages to change.

In solidarity, Jerry