[OPE-L:1550] Re: Re: Lapides and Marx's wage theory

michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Fri, 22 Oct 1999 17:08:58 -0700

At 04:23 PM 10/20/1999, Paul wrote:
>Regarding your "critical" issue of the degree of separation among workers,
>you state that there are two propositions implicit in Capital: 1) " *any
>co-operation and combination of labor in production generates a combined,
>social productivity of labor which exceeds the sum of individual isolated
>productivities* " and 2) "in any society, *separation and division in
>social relations among producers allow those who* mediate *among the
>producers to capture the fruits of co-operation in production* " (pp. 67
>and 69, * for italics). The former is, as you say, quite similar to Adam
>Smith (who Steve Marglin criticized sometime in the 1970s).
>For both propositions, you cite a lot of what Marx wrote (every single one
>of the 20 footnotes for the 4 pages are to Marx, except one to Smith and
>onenote of your own) and you don't indicate anything "missing", at least
>not in these pages (pp.67-71).

        I'm afraid I fell into the very trap I was wary about when I cited a few
pages out of a sustained (I think, at least) argument. It is true that the
citations in that section are to Marx--- quite legitimately, I think,
because I was there trying to establish the pedigree of the concept of the
degree of separation among workers. However, as you know, I went on in the
remainder of the chapter ("The Political Economy of Wage Labour"--- an
earlier version of which was published in Science & Society) to stress that
just as capital struggles to increase separation among workers (this being
a necessary condition of existence for capital) so also workers through all
their struggles attempt to reduce that separation. I traced this struggle
from the side of workers through each moment of the circuit of capital,
noting, among other things, that the forms of struggle appropriate in the
labour market (M-C) and the labour process (P)-- ie., trade unions--- when
it comes to confronting capital's power as owner of the products of labour
(C'-M') are inadequate precisely because the power of capital as owner of
the products of labour and mediator within society can only be confronted
as a whole (ie. politically). See, eg., my comment on p. 83 that "From
sellers of labour-power, whose assertion of selves as commodity-sellers
does not transcend the capital/wage-labour relation; to producers within
the workplace, whose assertions of their needs as producers implicitly go
beyond capitalist direction; to wage-labour as a class which politically
asserts the needs of workers as human beings in opposition to the rights of
capital as property--- each moment contains the preceding and represents a
_higher_ level of struggle against capital."
        Now, you may respond by saying, well, we knew this from Marx's comments in
Value, Price and Profit and letters (which, of course, I cite to show they
fit the logical construction), and Lenin didn't need to read a "missing
book" to know this. What I was trying to do, however, was to show that
these scattered remarks of Marx all are part of a coherent whole. You may,
of course, see all this as dreaded Hegelianism but I should think that you
(as someone influenced by Althusser) would recognise that parts take on
their particular meaning in the context of the whole of which they are part
and that they have a different significance in the context of new
combinations (in this case, one including the explicit concept of the
degree of separation among workers).
        In any event, I think it is obvious from my book and from the discussion
above that my focus is on the struggle of workers--- the side of class
struggle which is not developed in Capital. Obviously, class struggle from
the side of capital is there, is indeed omnipresent. However, without
development of struggle from the side of workers (not the least of which is
the missing wage struggle) and capital's attempt to defeat workers who are
struggling for themselves, yes, class struggle is de-emphasized in Capital.

>Could I ask my question another way? If you want to develop theory of
>wage-labor from a Marxist perceptive, why worry about whether there is a
>"missing" book and just go about the job of presenting the theory?

        As long as someone thinks Capital is "complete" and that the theory of
wage-labour is already present within it, then obviously not only talk of a
missing book but also of a missing or incompletely developed theory of
wage-labour will be seen as pointless (or even threatening to entrenched
views). Of course, lots of people do acknowledge that Capital is not
complete and so are more or less receptive to attempts to develop further
aspects of Marx's argument in Capital. I want to stress, however, that that
is _not_ my position. Yes, I do think there were missing books and we
should try to construct their logic, ending up with the world market and
crises. However, I believe Capital is _more_ than incomplete--- that it is,
in particular, _one-sided_; and that the failure to grasp its limited
object has helped to produce a one-sided Marxism, one which is determinist,
economist and lots of other nasty things. Eg., as I argued on p. 87 (in the
chapter, "One-Sided Marxism"), "unless the behaviour of capital is
considered in the context of wage-labour for itself rather than just
wage-labour in itself, the clear tendency is to think in terms of the
autonomous development of productive forces and the neutrality of
technology. Both conceptions are characteristic of economism."
        Finally, when you quoted me before as saying Capital deemphasized class
struggle, you cut off my statement at an important point. What I said was:

>>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.

        You left out the part beginning with "including....". However, as you
should know from the book, that is a rather important part of my argument.
It's one that I expanded upon, too, is the first section of my review essay
on Felton Shortall's Incomplete Marx in Historical Materialism #3.

        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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