more on countertendencies
djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Sun Apr 16 18:57:47 MDT 1995
I think that my discussion of poverty in the First World in my last post
was rambling--to say the least. So I'll give it another shot. In
response to Rahul
>Is this egregious sophistry or are you simply saying that because workers
>in the First World have come to expect more they are as likely to feel
The experience of misery is possible with even slowly rising real, and of
course stagnant real, wages. The generation of new needs itself becomes a
need (K Brien, P Giusanni, S Sayers, M Lebowitz), and the intensification
of the labor process impels the working class to fight for higher real
wages (Grossmann, Marx esp in Value, Price and Profit). Interruptions in
this process may be experienced as real social and physical misery, as real
as the most basic forms of privation.
Moreover, in Marxian terms, a substantial real wage is not only compatible
with a high rate of exploitation but also tied to it (here we need to
discuss that difficult chapter on National Differences in Wages for which
the Giusanni essay is very helpful). This is not to privilige an
apparently highly-paid worker *because* she may be more productive of
surplus value in Marxian terms. This may well be irrelevant to her as long
as the apparently high wage allows her to buy a greater amount of the means
of susbsistence REQUIRED to reproduce labor power
when her own labor is exploited at a high rate of intensity (Grossmann);
when her children remain dependent for a longer period because of the
required in a fully developed capitalism (see Sydney Coontz, 1957); and
when the circle of her own needs is growing, as the result of the accumulation
process (see Michael Lebowitz).
Though her wage may appear high from a global perspective, it is not that
she may *feel* exploited. Her life is indeed tenuous, and the interruption
of real wage gains threatens to throw her into a position of real social
and physical misery.
And this misery is no less real than its other terrifying forms . She too
may have nothing to lose but her chains.
>However, in every sense, Marxian and otherwise, the exploitation of the
>people in the Third World is much worse.
Sometime ago in Development and Underdevelopment: A Marxist View Geoffrey
Kay noted that the problem of underdevelopment stemmed from a lack of
exploitation. As I understand it, Samir Amin and Henry Bernstein wrote
critiques of this position. Perhaps it is time we return to this debate.
Like Kay, Michael Hudson has recently written a simply monumental
two-volume critique of international trade theory, a study of the
polarization tendencies inherent in the world capitalist market: Trade,
Development and Foreign Debt: A History of Theories of Polarization and
Convergence in the International Economy (London: Pluto, 1992).
I do wish that more people on the line wrote about these issues. I will be
reading Hudson, along with Robert Guttmann's How Credit-Money Shapes the
Economy: The United States in a Global System. Sharpe, 1994 in the
If a reading group would like to start around such work, I would appreciate it.
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