[OPE-L:1162] Re: A Review of Lapides' Marx's Wage theory

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Date: Thu Sep 09 1999 - 11:20:48 EDT

 An increasing immiseration thesis must
>assume that real wages for most of the historical period under
>consideration must be considerably above the ‘minimum subsistence’,
>otherwise how could one talk about a secular tendency for the real wages
>to decline? The ‘Iron Law of Wages’, on the other hand, maintains that
>real wages cannot be higher than the ‘minimum subsistence’ for any
>considerable period of time. Thus the two theses mutually exclude each
>other, and their identification on Lapides’s part is evidence to his
>poor understanding of this issue.


Let us leave aside for now Marx's indebtedness to Ricardo's concept of the
relative wage in the development of his theory of the increasing social
misery of the working class. Note for now that Lapides does indicate
implicitly how the physical misery of the working class could increase
without a fall or even an increase in the real wage (i.e., an increasing
misery thesis is no more logically dependent upon falling real wages than,
say, natural selection is on a competitive exclusion principle). Note e.g.
p. 193:

"Examining the results of an intensification of the labor process, Marx
finds that when greater than normal demands are placed on the worker to
achieve a greater output, the vlaue of his or her labor pwoer has risen. A
greater sum of necessaries will be required to maintain this heightened
level of work. If however this enhanced value of labor power does not
receive higher wages, or even if higher wages are paid but not by a
commensurate amount, the price of labor power will fall below its value.
"This occurs whenever the rise in the price of labor power does not
compensate for its increased wear and tear." (CW35, 525).

Lapides (p. 197) goes on to quote Marx about how in the case of overtime
the additional hours are paid better but "often in a proportion
ridiculously small." (CW35, 546)

Yours, Rakesh

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