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

From: ajit sinha (sinha_a99@YAHOO.COM)
Date: Thu Nov 20 2003 - 02:10:22 EST

--- "michael a. lebowitz" <mlebowit@SFU.CA> wrote:
> Rakesh wrote:
> > > >>  Confused here. I thought you were chiding
> > > Michael L
> > > >>  for not having
> > > >>  a causal theory but then you seem to suggest
> > > that
> > > >>  attribution of
> > > >>  causes is superstitious?
> > > >_________________
> And Ajit responded:
> > > >
> > > >How can I chid Michael L! What I was humbly
> > > pointing
> > > >out was that he is developing a causal
> explanation,
> > > >but his explanation turns out to be circular--a
> no!
> > > >no! for any causal theory.
> Now, I'm confused. I simply posed the proposition---
> let us assume the rate
> of exploitation given (as Marx assumed in Vol3, Ch.
> 13 and as he discussed
> in the 1861-63 Economic Manuscript) and I suggested
> that we justify this by
> assuming that the balance of class forces is given
> at a given point of
> time. (In my chapter, 'Wages', I introduce the
> degree of separation among
> workers as a variable and assume that given at a
> given point of time.)
> Then, I asked, what are the implications of rising
> productivity (and what
> happens to the theory of relative surplus value when
> we no longer assume
> the real wage given)? Methodologically, how is this
> any different from what
> Ajit is doing? Ajit accepts that the real wage is
> determined by class
> struggle; he presumably also agrees that the workday
> is set as a result of
> class struggle. In this, he would be simply
> accepting that capitalist and
> worker push in opposite directions on these fronts
> and that the respective
> power of the combatants (ie., the balance of class
> forces) sets both. Ajit
> (following Marx's provisional assumption) then
> assumes the real wage given
> for a given country at a given time and then would
> consider the effect of
> rising productivity on the rate of exploitation. How
> is one argument
> circular and the other not?

Let's first of all clarify that what are there in
Marx's theory and what other possibilities one can
think of are two separate things. Taking the first
issue first, what you are proposing is not there in
Marx's theory. In his three chapters on falling rate
of profits: the first chapter abstracts from the
question of a rise in productivity due to a change in
technology. Therefore, what he looks at is the impact
of a rise in C/v, given s/v. As he states:
"We entirely leave aside here the fact that the same
amount of value represents a progressively  rising
mass of use-value and satisfactions, with the progress
of capitalist production and with the corresponding
development of the productivity of social labour and
multiplication of branches of production and hence
In the second and third chapters he introduces the
question of increase in labor productivity due to
technical change. His main argument is that the nature
of technical changes is such that it creates increase
in relative unemployment, which depresses real wages
in the long run. Therefore, this aspect is treated as
countervailing tendency to the fall in the rate of
profits. Only at one place he suggests that if there
is overproduction of capital, i.e., the demand for
labor due to accumulation is rising faster than the
rate of growth of population then the real wages might
increase for a time being but soon the rise in wages
will bring about increase in the rate of growth of
population due to fall in infant mortality and rise in
early marriages etc. and bring the real wages down.
Thus the idea that Marx keeps s/v constant in the
falling rate of profit thesis must imply that he must
have somehow assumed that real wages would rise with
the rise in productivity is not tenable.
Secondly, Marx is consistent throughout on the
question of what determines real wages and what causes
determine its long-term trends.

Now to your repeated question: why cannot we keep s/v
constant and read out the impact of a rise in
productivity on w? The answer to this question is that
s/v is a number. It is a derived number from given w,
length of the working day, and the level of
productivity. It has no independent existence from
these three variables. Even if we assume that your
proposition that real w and the length of the working
day are determined by the relative strengths of the
two classes is true, what you are doing is not
warranted. As you have already used this relative
strength to determine w, so how can now a change in
productivity change the w when the relative strength
of the two classes have remained the same? I think
your mistake is similar to the mistake of trying to
determine two unknowns with one equation. I hope my
point is clearer this time. Cheers, ajit sinha
>          More significant, though, are the
> unanswered questions--- what is
> the logic behind assuming the real wage constant,
> what are the conditions
> necessary for this assumption to hold and what is
> its implication?
>          in solidarity,
>          michael
> ---------------------
> 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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