[OPE-L:1586] Re: Lapides and Marx's wage theory

Ajit Sinha (ajitsinha@lbsnaa.ernet.in)
Mon, 25 Oct 1999 17:42:45 +0530

michael a. lebowitz wrote:

> Although I certainly do not expect to convince anyone about the
> "the missing book" in these few lines, I think that to situate Lapides'
> scholarly integrity properly, it is useful to see what in my earlier
> critique he did not respond to either in S&S or in this book. After
> commenting on what I identified as "theoretical lapses" in Lapides'
> article, in a section headed "A Pertinent Question" I stated the following:
> "There is a simple question that must be answered by all those who view the
> analysis in Capital as complete. _Where did Marx remove the assumption that
> the standard of necessity for workers is constant?_" (68).
> Having traced almost all of the evidence above--- including the
> from the 1861-63 Mss cited above which Lapides conveniently forgot (!), I
> then raised a number of questions about the implications of no longer
> assuming a fixed standard of necessity. One (which members of the list may
> wish to think about) was that "productivity increases in the production of
> necessaries in themselves will not lead to a reduction in necessary labor
> and the value of labor-power. Instead, the effect of the falling value of
> necessaries will be to increase what workers can purchase with their
> money-wages and, thus, the level of the necessaries of life which become
> second nature to them" (70) The question I posed, then, was another
> challenge to Lapides: "there is an obvious question for those who view the
> analysis in Capital as complete: what does it mean for Marx's discussion of
> relative surplus value if productivity increases produce corresponding
> increases in the standard of necessity?"(70).
> I think that Lapides' failure to respond and, indeed, his
> the fact that these questions were even directed to him says quite a bit
> about his integrity as a scholar. It is unfortunate because the potential
> of the book is squandered by his performance on this question. I have not
> investigated his differences with Ajit on the immiseration question but
> would be hard-pressed to trust Lapides on any point as a result of what
> I've seen. In this respect, it is difficult not to be sad about this when
> there is so much serious work to be done.


I personally do not think much of Lapides's scholarship. I find his
understanding of the issues to be poor, and I have no interest in getting
with him either. But on your above question, I would say this:

A rise in the real wages must imply that the bargaining strength of the
has improved. Now, you would need to explain why and how the nature of
change in capitalism improves the position of the working class vis-a-vis the
capitalist class. My think that Marx's general position was that the
technical change in capitalism was labor saving and unemployment
long-term or secular time period the workers bargaining strength becomes
weaker vis-a-vis the capitalists. That is why the tendency for the real
fall to the bare subsistence rather than rise. Your argument seems to rely
the assumption of steaky money wages. I don't think Marx made this
assumption. And in any case, such an assumption for a long term
extremely dubious. What do you say? Cheers, ajit sinha


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Mon Jan 03 2000 - 12:18:33 EST