[OPE-L:1645] Re: wages, cycles, and crises

Subject: [OPE-L:1645] Re: wages, cycles, and crises
From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Sun Nov 07 1999 - 15:47:16 EST

Continuing the discussion with Jurriaan:

> > In other words, if we abstracted from the cycle, then we
> >could say that wages on average would equal the value of labour-power
> >(although the value of labour-power itself might change over a period of
> >time - typically longer than a single cycle).
> That sounds like a good theory but it is too simple for me, in view of what
> I observed and studied about empirical wage movements on the one side, and
> living standards on the other side.

Of course, it is too simple as stated above. I should have made it clearer
that I view this as only *part* of a theory.

> But it may be a good starting point for
> analysis. I don't have a good answer at present. That's the thing about
> Marxism; it raises more questions then it answers, and I haven't got round
> to a general theory of wages.

I think that the very process of asking the questions is an important -
indeed necessary - step towards developing sufficient answers. I.e.
before one can give the "right" answers, one must first ask the "right"
questions. This is an integral part of what I see as critique: reading
critically and challenging what one reads by asking questions about
what was written, inferred, and/or omitted.

btw, I think it is a sign of political and theoretical immaturity when
some [typically younger] Marxists act as if they know all the answers to
the world. (I suppose I was like that when I was a 16-year-old Marxist).
It has been my experience that the more one develops and the more one
learns the more one realizes - paradoxically - how much there is
left to learn.

> > "The actual value of his labour-power diverges from this physical
> > minimum; it differs according to climate [?!, JL]
> By "climate" Marx refers among other things to the fact that climate can
> affect the productivity of labour achievable within a given time-period.

By increasing or decreasing the intensity of work? Perhaps, but how would
that change the VLP? I.e. if the intensity of work changed, that would
change the rate of surplus value, everything else remaining constant. Yet
a change in the rate of surplus value does not necessarily cause a change
in the VLP.

> Yes, and historic defeats of the working class can drive down the
> moral-historical element of the wage (and indeed the physiological element)
> for a whole period.

I agree and that is another way of expressing what I meant earlier about
the effect of fascism on the VLP.
> (By a dual society I do not mean discrimination).

I understand that, but I raised the topic both because the subjects of a
dual economy and segmented labor markets are often linked (as in the
"social structure of accumulation" school) and because we were discussing,
in part, wage disparities.

In solidarity, Jerry

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