[OPE-L:4737] Re: the determination of real wages---- and a puzzle

Michael A. Lebowit (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Fri, 11 Apr 1997 21:41:55 -0700 (PDT)

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In message Thu, 10 Apr 1997 02:50:25 -0700 (PDT),
Ajit Sinha <ecas@cc.newcastle.edu.au> writes:

>> So, here is the question/puzzle--- if we no longer treat real wages as
>> fixed *by definition* (ie., if we acknowledge, as Marx said, that "the
>> level of the necessaries of life whose total value constitutes the
>> value of labour-power can itself rise or fall"-- Vol. I,
>> Vintage,1068-9), then what exactly happens to real wages as
>> productivity increases? Eg., if productivity in the production of goods
>> entering into workers' consumption doubles, this is equivalent to a
>> fall of 50 0n the value of those commodities. Then--- excluding the
>> unlikely case in which workers are paid directly in kind, ie. in
>> use-values, why will real wages not in this case double (ie., increase
>> at the same rate as productivity)?
> ______________
> Marx considered linking wages to productivity, as you are doing above, to
> be an absurd deduction. To quote Marx, since you like quotations so much,

No, no quotations, please. This is a simple proposition. What *exactly* is
the mechanism which is operative? And, by what mechanism will real wages be
constant (ie., money wages fall at the same rate as the values of wage
goods)? This is a question addressed not only to you, Ajit.

> The workers ability to raise real wages crucially, at least in Marx's
> opinion, depends upon the unemployment situation. If the tendency of the
> rate of unemployment is to rise, then workers won't be able to raise real
> wages even if the rate of surplus value is rising. Thus, one has to put
> the problem in a dynamic context, where the three main variables one
> needs to look at are the rate of growth, the nature and the speed of
> technical change, and the rate of growth of population; now a days the
> policy of the welfare state should also be added to the equation.

You are consistent in not identifying questions related to class
struggle--eg., the degree of organisation of workers--- as a variable.

>> In short, what *exactly* is the mechanism that governs the
>> determination of real wages? In particular, what is the mechanism that
>> will generate a constant real wage (ie., that money wages will also
>> fall by 50%)? Finally, does the story of relative surplus value have to
>> be modified once real wages are no longer fixed by definition?

in solidarity,
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
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e-mail: mlebowit@sfu.ca