[OPE-L:1953] Re: Is 'Value, Price and Profit' a Theory of "Increasing Misery" by Marx?

Paul Zarembka (zarembka@ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU)
Sun, 19 Dec 1999 10:50:32

Replying to Ajit:

>... As far as your Sraffa quote is concerned, it is simply irrelevant,
>because Sraffa is talking about 'money wages', i.e. wages represented by
>the money commodity. We are here concerned with real wages.

In claiming that Sraffa is talking "money wages", Ajit is incorrect.
Sraffa precisely says that we must first "specify the standard" [full
phrase: "We can thus no longer speak of a rise or a fall in the wage
unless we specify the standard, for what is a rise in one standard may be
a fall in another"]. The standard need NOT be the money commodity!
(However, for me, Sraffa was only a parathetical remark; he was basically
touching around the famous reswitching controversy.)

>There are various
>quotations above that you have quoted where Marx is basically talking
>Ricardian theory and they are all in the static context. So i detect a
>lot of confusion on your part about what is the issue here.

I'll wait until Ajit backs up the statement that "Marx is basically
talking Ricardian theory". It relates to the distinction between
Ricardian and Marxist theory. It relates to what "A Critique of Politcal
Economy" (subtitle of CAPITAL) might mean [e.g. "'To Criticize Political
Economy' means to *confront* it with a new problematic and a new object:
i.e., to question the very *object* of Political Economy"--Althusser,
READING CAPITAL, Chp. 7, "The Object of Political Economy", first page].

I'll pass on "I detect a lot of confusion on your part".

>> And with that narrow concept, it is difficult to accept a remark such
>> as (even distinguishing falling, from fixed, wages):
>> "A quite different version of the iron law of wages was provided by
>> Karl Marx. He put great emphasis upon the 'reserve army of the
>> unemployed.'...This, Marx thought, would depress wages to the subsistence
>> level." "[T]he basic Marxian conclusion" is that there is a "tendency for
>> real wages rates to fall to a *minimum subsistence level*" (Paul
>> Samuelson, ECONOMICS, 6th ed., section entitled "The Iron Law of Wages:
>> Malthus and Marx", pp. 553 and 554).

>Here Samuelson is right, and i think most of the serious historians of
>thought would agree with him on the question of the trend in the real

Samuelson tries to render a simplistic interpretation of Marx for those
who will not study Marx carefully. In fact, I think Samuelson wants to
DISCOURAGE careful study of Marx as he thinks that "answers" to questions
in economics are best handled by classical/neoclassical theory. In any
case, what does "most of the serious historians of thought" mean?
"Serious" can sound like a putdown toward those who disagree with one's
own position. Furthermore, if we on this list were to go with "most"
intellectuals we wouldn't have this list at all.

>> {It is also difficult to accept a phrase "Marx's prediction of
>> increasing misery of the working class"--whether or not it continues with
>> "rests on the assumption that the rate of labor saving technical change
>> combined with the rate of growth of population would be higher than the
>> rate at which capital accumulation could absorb the labor force" (Sinha,
>> draft review of Lapides' book, 9/5/99, OPE #1112.)}

>On what ground you say that "it is difficult to accept" the above
>statement? Do you think that Marx thought that there was a secular trend
>for the rate of unemployment to fall over time?

The entire [OPE-L:1881] is my reply to Ajit's assertion the VPP is a key
support for immiseration. Whether I have tracked my objection well or not
is of course left to any who are reading the interchange, but I did try to
be "serious".

I haven't yet introduced the production of relative surplus value nor
unemployment in my argumentation one way or another. However, I can say
that during the deepest unemployment in U.S. history during the 1930s,
workers became the most militant and achieved real gains which to this day
the capitalist class is struggling to wipe out!


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