Re: indirect labor, the real wage, and the production of surplus value

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Tue Nov 11 2003 - 12:10:04 EST

         I asked earlier (8 Nov), that when we recognise Marx's
acknowledgement of 3 possibilities with rising productivity, why treat the
real wage as constant (thereby generating relative surplus value)? How
plausible is this assumption, what are the conditions necessary for
it to hold, and what is its implication? In particular, I asked:

>What prevents workers
>from obtaining the gains from the rise in social productivity?

         I agree with points that everyone who has responded has made, but
I don't think anyone has really answered the question. Yes, as Jerry
proposed, Marx's assumption is justified (as he did) 'in order to avoid
confounding everything' but  are there any implications of making the
assumption? What are the implied conditions necessary for it to hold? Yes,
of course, as Ajit emphasizes, real wages are ultimately determined by
class struggle (and thus are not determined in any given relation to
productivity); however, if the balance of class forces is 'given in a given
country in a given point of time' (rather than the real wage being that
given), what happens with productivity increases? If we do entertain Marx's
3rd possibility that real wages rise at the same rate as productivity gains
(as would occur, ceteris paribus, in a commodity money economy with a
constant money wage-- as Rakesh indicates), what happens to the theory of
relative surplus value?
         An argument I make in my new chapter, 'Wages' is that the results
are quite different in two cases: (a) increases in social productivity drop
from the sky and (b) increases in social productivity are the result of
increases in the technical composition of capital. If this is so, then the
condition for the creation of relative surplus value has been
insufficiently specified.
         in solidarity,

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office Fax:   (604) 291-5944
Home:   Phone (604) 689-9510

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