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

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Wed Nov 12 2003 - 10:47:06 EST

```At 21:23 11/11/2003 -0800, Ajit wrote:
>  In Marx's theory real wages are
>taken as given at any point of time, as the real wages
>are supposed to be determined in a long term
>socio-historical context (and not just class
>struggle).

It is not clear why that determination would support the
assumption of given wages, but in any event it is not Marx's point. Marx
repeatedly indicated that he was making the assumption of constant real
wages (an assumption to be removed under 'wage labour') in order not to
confound everything. The logic behind the assumption is best explained in
the 1861-63 Economic Manuscript, where he noted that the question of wage
movements 'do not belong here, where the general capital-relation is to be
developed, but in the doctrine of the wages of labour.'

>Given this real wages, the methods of
>production, and the length of the working day, Marx
>derives from these data the rate of surplus value or
>the rate of exploitation s/v. Now, by calling s/v the
>relative strength of the two classes and keeping it
>constant to determine the real wage in turn is simply
>theoretically illegitimate. You cannot get s/v unless
>you take w as given. Therefore, you cannot take s/v as
>given to derive w. Cheers, ajit sinha

Let w= U/q, where w, U and q are necessary labour, the real wage and
productivity respectively. Then, assuming U given, Marx explored the effect
of changes in q on necessary labour. If we let s=d-w, where s and d are
surplus labour and the workday respectively, then (assuming the length and
intensity of the workday constant), then (the rate of exploitation) s/w  =
(dq/U)-1, and increases in q with a given U clearly imply a rising rate of
exploitation. But, what is the logic behind the assumption of a given U?
What gives it plausibility? What makes it any more plausible, eg, than
assuming the balance of class forces (and thus s/w) given at a given point
of time--- which, after all, is the opening assumption in Marx's falling
rate of profit discussion (Vol. III, Ch. 13)? In this case, increases in q
imply real wages rise at the same rate as productivity--- which, all other
things equal, would tend to occur in a commodity money economy (as Rakesh
noted) with constant money wages.
We come back, then, to the question I posed earlier-- what happens
to the theory of relative surplus value once we no longer assume the real
wage given?
in solidarity,
michael

---------------------
Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University