[OPE-L:1604] my 1993 S&S article

michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Wed, 27 Oct 1999 23:41:43 -0700

        Given the discussion over Lapides which has occurred on the list, I am
attaching for your information the 1993 article to which he chose not to
reply (despite being invited to do so) and then chose to treat as
non-existent in his book.

        in solidarity,

Attachment Converted: "C:\PIPEPLUS\DOWNLOAD\Bkwls&s.wps"

Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office: Phone (604) 291-4669
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Home: Phone (604) 872-0494
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From owner-ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 1999 08:54:26 -0400 (EDT)
From: Gerald Levy <glevy@pratt.edu>
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To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
Subject: [OPE-L:1605] skill, vlp, wages, & working class
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Re Ian's [OPE-:1603]:

> Highly skilled workers have more than their labour power to seel. They
> sell a relatively scarce skill. They may earn a rent from that skill. i
> would distinguish the proletariat, those with nothing to sell but their
> labourfrom skilled workers, who sell their labour power enhanced by
> ttaing, and from skilled professionals, who sell the skill but not their
> labour power (their employer cannot set them to work on any old job,
> though contracts of employment these days are increasingly
> 'proletarianising' porfessional employees). Having made all these
> distinctions, I would group all workers and skilled workers in the
> working class, but count skilled professionals as a half-way house
> betwen employment and self-employment, more or less as
> Erik OlinWright suggested some years ago (subsequently recanted).

Hi Ian. You have given us a lot to think about. To begin, shall we discuss
the relation of skill to the value of labour-power?

Your perspective, as outlined above, is that (in my words) that component
of the wage of skilled workers over and above the value of labour-power
represents a (quasi-?) rent paid by capitalists to skilled workers?
Presumably, from that perspective, the magnitude of the rent would be set
by the supply and demand of and for the concrete skill (and also the
bargaining power of skilled workers which might be affected by other
determinants, like the degree of trade union organization)?

A few preliminary questions:

1) In which of several senses (i.e. interpretations) are you defining the
   value of labour power?

2) How does the (direct and indirect, including uncompensated time
   learning the skill) costs of training enter into the wage of skilled

3) What are the implications of assuming that rent is paid by capitalists
   to (a certain segment of) workers? If your answer is that it lowers
   the wage going to unskilled workers then it seems to me that the whole
   subject might be better dealt with by examining how wages are
   scattered at rates above and below the vlp (where the vlp serves as a
   "center of gravity" for wages). On the other hand, if capitalists pay
   a rent to skilled workers how does that affect such topics as the total
   surplus value received by capitalists? ... the price and value of the
   commodity output? ... does the rent not enter into the formation of
   prices of production? ... under certain circumstances of "excess
   rent", could the skilled workers be "exploiting" capitalists? (I'll
   probably think of some more questions later).
> <snip> I prefer my way of thinking about it, because it highlighs some
> divisions as more important than others in defining how interests
> relate to the capitalist property system.

Perhaps, but I think that the more basic theoretical questions of value
and wage determination need to be addressed at greater length first.

In solidarity, Jerry

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