[OPE-L:1852] Re: Re: A Review of Lapides' Marx's Wage theory

Subject: [OPE-L:1852] Re: Re: A Review of Lapides' Marx's Wage theory
From: Patrick L. Mason (pmason@garnet.acns.fsu.edu)
Date: Tue Dec 07 1999 - 08:09:44 EST

The immiseration thesis has always been something of a curiosity to me,
also. The only thing that I recall seing by Marx that could close occurs in
"Wages, Prices, and Profit." In that tract, Marx does seem to be arguing
for an increasing rate of exploitation. But, in the volume one of capital
Marx also points out that the countries with the highest rate of
exploitation also have the highest wage rates. So, I think Lapides is
correct is saying that there is no immiseration thesis in Marx. Writing
simplistily, I would characteristized Marx macro and micro theory as follows:

wage = f(ability to pay, ability to make pay),

where the job is the unit of analysis.

ability to pay = g(competitive characteristics of the firm, characteristics
of the workforce),
ability to make pay = h(relative power of labor v. capital).

So, class struggle matters but it's not all that matters. There are
competitive limits of wages.

Nevertheless, identical workers may receive differential pay for doing the
same work because they make be employed at jobs that are differentiated by
the ability of firms to pay and the ability of workers to make firms pay.

Also, at the aggregate level, if both the ability to pay is rising over
time and the ability to make pay is not falling then the average wage will
rise. There is no necessity of immiseration.

peace, patrick l mason

At 08:48 AM 12/5/99, Paul Zarembka wrote:
>I now have time to turn to wage theory and note a criticism in 1112 you
>posted of Kenneth Lapides' book "Marx's Wage Theory in Historical
>Perspective" (see below). Lapides replied to you in 1303:
>"It really seems as though Sinha only glanced through my book, because if
>he had actually read it he would know that I show that there is no such
>thing as 'Marx's immiseration thesis,' that it only exists in the minds of
>writers like himself. Thus I cannot 'misunderstand the logic' of
>something that I demonstrate does not exist (or exists only as an
>imaginary entity). What I do show is that many followers and critics of
>Marx have mistakenly 'identified' his economic doctrine with Lassalle's
>'iron law of wages,'..."
>What I would like to know is 1) where you find an "immiseration" thesis in
>Marx and 2) how do you respond to Lapides' denial that he had joined an
>Iron Law of Wages to immiseration (i.e., where do you find him in his book
>joining an Iron Law with immiseration)? Note Lapides': "The
>misrepresentation of Marx's wage theory that is the most far-reaching in
>its implications and widespread in its dissemination is the allegation
>that it rests on a thesis of 'increasing misery' of the working class" (p.
>Thanks, as I think these issues are important, Paul
>Paul Zarembka, supporting RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY, web site
>******************** http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/PZarembka
>On 09/05/99 at 01:41 PM, Ajit Sinha <ajitsinha@lbsnaa.ernet.in> said:
>>The fundamental problem with Lapides s position stems from his complete
>>misunderstanding of the logic of Marx s immiseration thesis. He
>>identifies Marx s increasing immiseration thesis with Iron Law of Wages
>>, which is simply absurd. An increasing immiseration thesis must assume
>>that real wages for most of the historical period under consideration
>>must be considerably above the minimum subsistence , otherwise how could
>>one talk about a secular tendency for the real wages to decline? The
>>Iron Law of Wages , on the other hand, maintains that real wages cannot
>>be higher than the minimum subsistence for any considerable period of
>>time. Thus the two theses mutually exclude each other, and their
>>identification on Lapides s part is evidence to his poor understanding of
>>this issue.

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