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

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Fri Nov 21 2003 - 10:57:23 EST

At 21:54 20/11/2003 -0800, Ajit wrote:
>Mike L. Wrote:
> > No, you have misunderstood me. I am not using
> > relative strength (or, as in
> > the book, the degree of separation of workers) to
> > determine first real
> > wages and then the rate of surplus value. That would
> > indeed be
> > questionable. Rather, I asked what happens to the
> > former if the latter is
> > given as the result of a given balance of class
> > forces (degree of
> > separation of workers) and productivity rises. But
> > the same point can be
> > approached in many ways: if we treat real wages as
> > variable, what happens
> > to real wages in a commodity money economy if
> > productivity in the
> > production of wage goods increases? What if that
> > productivity increase
> > drops from the sky (i.e., we are not considering the
> > effect of an increase
> > in the technical composition of capital)?
> >          in solidarity,
> >           michael
>Good! Now the issue is becoming clearer to me. I don't
>see a great problem in posing the question this way.

Great! We're reducing the gap.

>However, there is some problem, as I see it. At this
>time you do not seem to have a theory of wages. You
>seem to be dealing with three variables, namely real
>wages, degree of separation of the working class, and
>the labor productivity. It is not clear in what kind
>of relationship these three variables stand with each
>other. Apparently, your argument is that given the
>degree of separation fixed, there must be a straight
>line inverse relation between the changes in
>productivity and the real wage. This will be true in
>the world of three variables, with the rest of the
>world frozen.

Yes-- although you mean a direct relation.

>  But this is nothing but simply another
>way of putting the proposition that given every thing
>else being constant, the real wage is a direct
>function of labor productivity.

The key is-- 'everything else being constant'. I don't think that is true
if productivity increases as the result of the substitution of means of
production for direct living labour. In that case, all other things equal,
unemployment increases and the degree of separation among workers
increases. (The condition for a constant real wage, then, is that the
degree of separation rises at the same rate as productivity.) However, if
productivity increases drop from the sky....

>  But this is not much
>different from the neoclassical proposition which says
>that with everything remaining constant, the real wage
>is a function of labor productivity.
>  Your proposition
>is a bit more stronger than the neoclassical one,
>since the neoclassical one does not draw a
>proportionate relationship of real wages with labor

The real parallel is that both propositions are based on the core
pre-analytical vision: the neoclassical proposition presuming that everyone
gets what they deserve, and the Marxian-- that everything revolves around
class struggle.

>This is not to say that this proposition
>is meaningless or wrong. Empirically it appears that
>the neoclassical proposition does better on this score
>than Marx's one. My point was that Marx did not think
>this way since he explicitly refused to draw a
>relationship between labor productivity and real
>wages. My sense is that your proposition will continue
>to appear to hang in the air till you develop a theory
>of real wage determination.

Marx did not in Capital draw a link between productivity and real wages
because he assumed the latter constant in his discussion of relative
surplus value. What I've been posing is that the result of this assumption
is that the premise for the emergence of relative surplus value in practice
is hidden.
         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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