Immiseration

Carlos Eduardo Rebello crebello at SPAMantares.com.br
Sat Dec 25 12:48:45 MST 1999



> > >Lou asked,
> > >
> > >> 1. Didn't Marx falsely predict the immiseration of the working
> > >class? Why  has this not happened?

Well, the notion of "absolute immiseration" comes from Ricardo, who
thought that, whenever the medium wage was above phisyological
subsistence level, the workers would reproduce and the offer of
labour-power would always increase 'til the medium wage had fallen to
the said susbsistence level. Marx in fact held such a view, in its
Ricardian form, when he wrote the Communist Manifesto, but afterwards he
adopted an idea of the "subsistence" wage-level as being shaped by
socio-historical factors, a view he developed in Capital Bk.1, chapter
22 of the Eng. edition ("National Differences in Wages"). The
subsistence level would be shaped by historical notions about what
should a "minimum" wage contain, in order to allow a "minimun" wage
standard in a given society, *provided there was a level of labour
productivity enough to allow this minimun wage to be paid without
endangering capitalist profit*.

However, one could also say that such "immiseration" refers to contantly
higher levels of productivity of labour that would reduce consistently
the socially necessary quantity of labour-power required to the
production of a given commodity, thereby creating an enormous increase
of the Industrial Reserve Army worldwide and generating the issue of
"immiseration" as the formation of a massive notional reserve army of
*chronically unemployed* wage-workers that would retain tenuous links
with the labour market, in the form of occasional wage-labour,
self-employment in unproductive activities, etc. This army of
chronically unemployed being, of course, a salient feature of 3rd World
poverty nowadays, that has substantially *increased* with neoliberal
globalization, i.e., sharper competition faced by national industies
from foreign-produced commodities. This view of "immiseration" was
already advanced by Trotsky in 1938 -ie, in the middle of the 1930s
economic crisis - in his piece "90 years of the Communist Manifesto".

Carlos Rebello









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