Re: (OPE-L) indirect labor, the real wage, and the production of surplus value

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU)
Date: Tue Nov 11 2003 - 03:08:04 EST

>Rakesh, The point I was making is that real wage is a
>long term phenomenon for Marx. It basically refers to
>the standard of living of the working class at any
>given time, and a lot of things goes into determining
>it. A short term immediate impact of a rise in labor
>productivity on the standard of living of the working
>class cannot be predicted since many other things have
>to be taken into account at the same time. Your point
>is more Keynesian in nature. Even if we assume that
>workers bargain for money wages, it is not clear why
>rise in labor productivity must lead to fall the
>prices of other things. Monetary authorities could
>easily increase the money supply and create a general
>inflation or at least not allow the prices to fall in
>money terms. Even when you are dealing with gold or
>silver money, the debasement of coins have been a
>regular phenomenon in history. Furthermore, there is
>no theoretical ground to suggest that rise in
>productivity is laways greater in other sectors than
>the money commodity sectors--remember discovery of new
>gold and silver mines over the period of history.
>Cheers, ajit sinha
  Ajit, yes, all your above points are persuasive. Yet it does seem to
leave open the question of how to account for the rises in the real
wage that have indeed obtained. It seems to me that worker militance
cannot explain all of it. Now why capitalists have failed in downward
readjustments of the money wage to a fixed real wage is a difficult
question indeed (does this lead us back to the old question of
whether the given should be a constant real or money wage?) Perhaps
(as you have suggested) the historical limitations on labor mobility
has  prevented the balance of power shifting so against workers in
the core that capital could go on such an offensive? But it does seem
to me that capital has been successful in raising the rate of surplus
value. Even at the height of the recent American boom unit labor
costs (though perhaps a very poor proxy for s/v) did not rise even as
unemployment reached thirty year lows.

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