Value and wages

glevy at acnet.pratt.edu glevy at acnet.pratt.edu
Sun Aug 6 20:07:48 MDT 1995


Unfortunately, I can't really respond in depth to Steve's post at this
time as Steve just sent me his very long paper on "A Post-Keynesian Guide
to Marx." During the course of printing that paper, my printer broke down
(!), so I have not been able to print his most recent post (damn
inconvenient timing!).

One question that Steve addresses concerns why the value of the commodity
labor power is, in his view, greater that the costs of the production and
reproduction of laborers. Steve goes on to say that Marx held that
the wage is greater than the "minimum wage."

I haven't re-checked the sections of _Theories of Surplus Value_ that
Steve refers to, but I will suggest a possible interpretation anyway.
Marx opposed the doctrine called the "Iron Law of Wages" developed by the
socialist Ferdinand Lassalle. The "Iron Law" held that wages would be
driven down to the minimum required for the subsistence of the laborer.
Marx opposed this "minimum wage" subsistence theory on the grounds that
the value of the commodity labor power is determined by the costs of the
production and reproduction of the laborer but that those costs  have a
social/cultural/historical character which have to be taken into account.
In other words, workers are not paid a subsistence wage but a wage that
includes both the minimum required for subsistence *and* an additional
amount which varies historically and culturally. Therefore, the wage will
always be above the "minimum wage" as it is also reflects social and
historical forces and customs.

Jerry


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