[OPE-L:1506] Re: Re: Re: Re: Lapides and Marx's wage theory

michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Wed, 20 Oct 1999 02:32:28 -0700

At 09:41 AM 10/19/1999, you wrote:
>On 10/19/99 at 01:02 AM, "michael a. lebowitz" <mlebowit@sfu.ca> said:
>>The sequence of events is
>>that his 1992 S&S article in passing criticised the position I had
>>advanced in my book. I responded, setting out the sequence of Marx's
>>references on assuming the standard of necessity constant, etc. (much as
>>in my recent message to the list) and posing the questions I quoted. He
>>chose not to respond, and I thought the matter was closed. After the list
>>discussion on his book, I sought it out in the university library and,
>>upon reading it, came to the conclusion indicated about his scholarly
>Mike, If I understand you correctly this is a new conclusion of yours,
>about "scholarly integrity", that you had no beef against Lapides before
>you read his new book (other than the disagreement about Marx).

        I am sending you separately a copy of my S&S piece (and will make that
available to anyone else who isn't a subscriber). As you will see, it was
quite critical of Lapides--- as is my critique of Felton Shortall in
Historical Materialism #3 (to which he has responded) and my critique of
Robert Brenner in the forthcoming issue of HM. However, while I criticised
"theoretical lapses", the question of scholarly integrity was not posed (as
it is not in these other cases). Indeed, the main focus of my comment was
to try to take the discussion further and to emphasize the importance of
the Grundrisse and the 1861-3 Manuscript for Marxist scholarship.

>Regarding substance of the issues, I see that I may be misreading you.
>Are you saying that 1) in Marx himself as written, there is no "basic
>standard of living" of workers and therefore v depends upon class struggle
>(and production of relative surplus value), OR 2) IF Marx had written that
>missing book, then doubt would have been erased about his position?
>If the former, it would seem to me that perhaps any "missing book" would
>not be missing, Marx's point is already there (and Lenin understood the
>issue without restoring to "missing book"). If the latter, then a
>position such as I understand Luxemburg's is also credible as Marx's own
>perception is ambiguous.

        Marx is very clear in Value, Price and Profit that while the capitalist
tries to drive the workday up and wages down, the worker constantly presses
in the opposite direction and the result depends upon their relative
strengths-- ie., on class struggle. There is clearly a basis for Lenin's
understanding there. However, you will not find in Capital this discussion
of the worker engaged in a struggle to increase wages. The assumption is
that the standard of necessity is given. So, I ask the simple question---
what are the implications if we relax this assumption, one which we know
Marx repeatedly said would be done in the study of wage-labour? Now, I find
many implications and to list them or to try to select pages would have me
setting out the whole book (it's really a short book, though). As I
indicated in my previous post, though, one variable that for me emerges as
critical is the concept of the degree of separation among workers (cf., pp.
67-71). I wish I had developed it more in the book (and will if discussions
of a revised edition bear fruit).
        So, if I understand your question, my answer would be "yes" to both.

>For my clarification, what is the difference between you and Lapides other
>than the question of whether a "missing book" is called for? And, what is
>at stake over the "missing book", if we were to agree that v is determined
>by class struggle.

        As you'll see from my S&S article, Lapides seemed to think a lot was at
stake when he wrote his original article--- he in fact stated explicitly
that "there is much at stake in this debate" and asked, where are we
politically if we accept the position that there is truly a missing book on
wage labour? My S&S response was that the appropriate maxim for Marxist
scholarship was the "relentless criticism of all that exists, relentless in
the sense that it is not afraid of the results it arrives at." As can be
seen, though, in my "Silences of _Capital_" in Historical Materialism
1997/1, I do see important implications. I argue that one of the central
effects of not recognising that Capital had a critical but limited object
is the de-emphasis of class struggle, including the process of struggle
itself as a process of production (ie., revolutionary practice)--- and
that, limited to Capital, we are left with mechanical laws of capital, a
structure without subjects, a one-sided Marxism.

> I guess this is another way of asking you to respond
>to Ajit's comment: "The most significant part of this [Lapides'] book is
>its chapter on the missing book controversy. Hopefully Lepides's
>contribution would put to rest this pedantic debate once and for all."

        If this were a debate limited to finding notes in Marx's handwriting as to
whether he was still thinking about a special study of wage labour, I would
agree it is pedantic. But, I've raised theoretical issues all along--- eg.,
where did Marx remove the assumption that the standard of necessity for
workers is constant, and if he didn't do that in Capital, what are the
implications for the argument in Capital of doing that?

        in solidarity,
Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office: Phone (604) 291-4669
        Fax (604) 291-5944
Home: Phone (604) 872-0494
        Fax (604) 872-0485
Lasqueti Island: (250) 333-8810

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