[OPE-L:1665] Re: wages, productivity and climate

Subject: [OPE-L:1665] Re: wages, productivity and climate
From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Thu Nov 11 1999 - 19:23:01 EST

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 1999 20:43:08 +0100
From: Jurriaan Bendien <djjb99@worldonline.nl>

Hi Jerry

Re your comments:

>Be scared then. E.g. when one reads or hears about the promulgation of
>racist and/or fascist theories, that is cause for alarm since behind the
>rationalization for racism and/or fascism are racists or fascists, i.e.
>real people intent on changing the world to fit their theories.

I refuse to be scared of theories in themselves, in the sense of ideas. One
can be scared of or alarmed about actions though, undertaken on the basis
of theories, ideas etc. if they are racist, fascist or otherwise
dehumanising theories. Then one should indeed "sound the alarm". "Theory
become a force when it grips the masses" as Marx said. The theory is itself
nothing to be scared about, the force is, if there is an evil, anti-human
theory involved.

Even so, fear may be debilitating in smashing that force, so we should not
succumb to it. If you were to get scared of a theory, you would stop
thinking straight, and fear is a mind killer. I know this for a fact,
because I had all sorts of fears in the past. So fears must be kept under
control or overcome through action.
I do not have or propose any racist, fascist or dehumanising theories in
case you were insinuating that, which I don't think you are. They don't
make sense to me, and I find them repulsive. I do make the occasional
minor mistake in my thinking through ignorance or pain of the past, but
there are always people around to correct me in that respect, don't you
worry about that. Here in Holland at least we are very aware of racist or
fascist innuendo's. I am not primarily concerned with the shit that
racists, fascists etc. have in their heads, that is their own psychological
problem, I am concerned with what they DO. We cannot very well go and make
a law specifically to ban fascist, racist ideas or theories in people's
heads, this is a ludicrous proposition from a Marxian point of view.

>The task of theory is not to explain why every firm in every branch of
>production in every country has a particular individual rate of profit.
>Similarly, theory can not take as its mission the task of explaining why
>every individual worker internationally receives a particular wage.

I don't think so either, but some theorists may conceivably disagree with
me and wish to pursue it. That is their right and responsibility, which
others may for their part want to criticise. This is in itself nothing to
be scared of. There is such a think as the abuse of knowledge, otherwise
known as "theoretical wanking", but that has to be proved.

>this sense, although it can be a real enough factor for _some_ workers, I
>think that variations in climate fall outside the scope of political
>economy. Or at least, they fall outside of the scope of macroeconomics and
>- perhaps - might have limited relevance in concrete, empirical,
>microeconomic studies.

I suppose that depends on how you define political economy. I think for the
purpose of e.g. the political economy of development (development studies)
climate can be an important consideration.
> it is possible for
>wages to increase at a greater rate than the increase in the rate of
>productivity growth.

Agreed, and if workers manage to achieve that, well good on them. Sometimes
even from a bourgeois point of view this is a healthy development.

>How an increase in the productivity of labor increases the level and
>variety of needs by the working class remains to be demonstrated. My
>question to you would be: how and why?

Well since you worked in an auto plant, you will know that auto workers
become more sophisticated about the choice of their own cars, what kind of
car they need, as a result of what they experience in the auto plant. I was
making a general point, and I take it to be fairly self-evident, and I am
surprised you don't get it.


Pass on that one, and for a very good reason. There is for me a small grey
area there, which I haven't fully resolved in my thinking.

>I'd have to hear your examples first before commenting on this
>proposition. It can be argued that capitalism, if there are competitive
>markets, tends to erode certain types of social distinctions in hiring. On
>the other hand, it can be argued that capitalism, if there are competitive
>markets, tends to reinforce certain social distinctions if these
>distinctions divide and weaken the working class and thereby drive down
>wages, increase the intensity of work, and diminish the bargaining power
>of workers.

Agreed, and I am very aware of that difference. I am going to pass on the
examples for a very good reason. There is for me a small grey area there,
which I haven't fully resolved in my thinking.

>[the topic of climate] is neither silly nor obscure, but its relevance to
social theory and macroeconomic political economy remains to be demonstrated.

Well I am not going to demonstrate here and now, I am out of time, but I
think it is obvious, since under certain climatic conditions you cannot
produce particular goods and services and that can have big effects on a
whole economy. I just had a bunch of kids at the door singing to me (it's
Sint Maarten's day) and I gave them inter alia a bunch of bananas, since I
did not have any lollies. Now, does that resolve the argument for you ?

In solidarity


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