[OPE-L:4915] "the special study on competition" and wage-labour

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 5 May 1997 06:34:28 -0700 (PDT)

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In [4854] I asked, among other questions:

> Q: Why did Marx suggest that topics such as:
> -- labor mobility (and laws relating to same);
> -- "indifference of the worker to the content of his work";
> -- reduction to simple labour;
> -- "disappearance of all prejudices of trade and craft among the
> workers";
> -- "subjugation of the worker to the capitalist mode of production"
> "belong in the special study of *competition*?
> Q: What is the relation between the contents of Marx's planned book on
> competition and his planned work on Wage-Labour (Book 3 in the
> "6-book-plan")?

Mike L, who was unable to resist the temptation to discuss Book III,
responded in [OPE-L:4911]:

> I think this is a very interesting question, Jerry.

Yes, I thought you would find it interesting, Mike. :-)

> It is hard to know
> what Marx thought the relation was. We know that Marx argued that "a
> scientific analysis of competition [of capitals] is possible only if we can
> grasp the inner nature of capital". In the same way, I would suggest that
> the scientific analysis of the competition of wage-labourers requires that
> first grasp the inner nature of wage-labour (which means we must consider
> the worker explicitly as a subject--- rather than as object).

I'm not sure about this analogy. It seems to me that Marx's argument above
was that before we can understand capital as diversity (and then
unity-in-diversity), we first have to understand capital as simple unity
(capital-in-general). Thus, before we can understand wage-labour as
diversity (and then unity-in-diversity) we first have to examine
wage-labour as simple unity -- from the one-sided standpoint of capital in
an analysis of capital-in-general. Later, in a separate presentation of
wage-labour, we should also begin that presentation with a discussion
of simple unity of the wage-earning class before proceeding to discuss
diversity in the working class and unity-in-diversity of the working

> In this
> respect, the entire discussion of market phenomena and contingent factors
> would seem to logically follow book 3 (existing, perhaps, as a prelude to
> consideration of book 4 on the state); to move directly from consideration
> of capital to competition would reinforce the apparent one-sidedness of
> Capital.

One could make an argument that the presentation of competition should
follow the presentation of capital-in-general in _Capital_. Yet, IMHO,
Marx _tells us_ [!] in V3, Ch. 52 (Penguin ed., pp. 1025-26) that the next
subjects to be addressed are landed-property and wage-labour (Book II and
III in the 6-book-plan). Thus, he writes:

"The question to be answered next is: 'What makes a class?', and this
arises automatically from answering another question: 'What makes
wage-labourers, capitalists and landowners the formative elements of
the three great social classes?'" (Ibid).

This reading is reinforced by noting the subject that Marx chose to end
Ch. 52 and _Capital_ with -- landed-property (and diversity in the
landowning class) -- the subject to be addressed further in Book II. Thus
he ended _Capital_ with:

"... the infinite fragmentation of interests and positions into
which the divisions of social labour splits not only workers but
also capitalists and land-owners -- the latter, for instance, into
vinyard-owners, field-owners, forest-owners, mine-owners.
fishery-owners, etc." (Ibid, p. 1026).

Thus, I agree that the subject of competition should be developed after
Book III (on "Wage-Labour"). I also believe that an examination of
competition, as diversity among capitalists, should proceed an examination
of the state-form since the bourgeois state, in part, serves to mediate
these differences (unity-in-diversity).

Yet, I think the subject of competition has to be _further_ developed
after an examination of the state-form when one examines "international
trade" (diversity) and "world market and crisis" (unity-in-diversity).
That is, the "outcome" of an investigation of "the state" [Book IV] is
now "simple unity" when one goes on to investigate diversity among
capitalist nation-states and "unity-in-diversity" among capitalists
and nation-states internationally on the world market. One would then
have to examine how the form of competition changes in the context of an
"open economy". Do you agree?

In solidarity, Jerry