[OPE-L:1647] Re: wages, cycles, and crises

Subject: [OPE-L:1647] Re: wages, cycles, and crises
From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Sun Nov 07 1999 - 20:35:01 EST

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 08 Nov 1999 01:47:17 +0100
From: Jurriaan Bendien <djjb99@worldonline.nl>

Hi Jerry

Thanks for your comment.

>I think that the very process of asking the questions is an important -
>indeed necessary - step towards developing sufficient answers.

I can go along with that. But, personally I asked far more questions than I
really could answer or did answer (too much radical philosophical thought).
And I think nowadays it is important for me not to raise all sorts of
questions or problems which I haven't a hope in hell of answering or
solving just now (too much critical thought). What I need more of is
interactions such as, "I solve your problem and you solve mine". I mean, if
I cannot even ask a girl a good pick-up question, for instance, then I am
not getting very far, am I. So anyway I am trying to claw my way back to a
more efficient praxis, a sense of purpose, which I lost because of
mistakes, wrong decisions.

>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).

I never had that problem, though I observed it a lot, in some sectarian
Trotskyist groups. I only became distinctively "Marxist" when I was about
22, in 1981. I had the luck of collaborating and living with older
working-class people and working with older academics, and I was
sufficiently mature to understand I lacked theoretical and political
maturity, essentially because I lacked deeper personal maturity. I've
always been a bit of a "Benjamin", really. I still would not call myself
"mature" in spite of my experience as political organiser, scholar, and
trade union delegate. I still have a personal development problem. And I
have to work on that everyday, sort it out.

>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.

Yes, that is a common observation, not just among Marxists. But I have to
make some decisions somewhere along the line, like, my time is limited, I
cannot do everything, now what is it that I can do, that I can successfully
complete ? (Personally, I hate this "learning how to learn" drivel).

>> > "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.

Agreed. But climate (and geographical circumstances more generally) can and
do have important effects on economic life. Indeed it is part of the
explanation of why a particular mode of production took root here, but not
there (see also the Grundrisse). You don't need to be Jevons to understand
that, I think. In a certain climate, you can for instance produce means of
subsistence more cheaply with less expenditure of labour than elsewhere.
Further, a certain climate simply requires a certain minimum lifestyle or
living standard as a prerequisite, in order to be able to work efficiently
and productively. It is not just a question of intensity of labour in
itself, but also of sheer output, macro-economically considered. The
productivity of labour, considered in aggregate, then feeds back into
living standards. The bigger your total social product, the more space
there is for the development of the "moral-historical" component. This
relates back to our earlier discussion on productive labour. The relative
productiveness of labour or the capacity to perform surplus-labour does not
"drop out of the sky", it requires a combination of factors -
socialisation, skill formation, tools & techniques, cultural norms, etc.
but it is also influenced by such things as geographic conditions including

We could experimentally demonstrate all this in detail by taking equally
qualified workers raised and working in different countries and asking them
to perform a set labour task in a set time, with a certain number of
trials, under varying conditions such as climate. I'll wager that you will
find that workers from some countries will complete that task consistently
quicker and more efficiently than others, simply because of the way their
labour-power was formed and the circumstances in which they normally work.
Take a different task, and other ethnic groups will score better.

In solidarity


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