Forwarded from Anthony (reply to Phil)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Feb 14 06:16:58 MST 2003

Reply to Phil Ferguson on value theory and labor aristocracy: (Subject:
Labour aristocracy (to Anthony)

From: Philip Ferguson <plf13 at>

Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2003 17:43:27 +1300)<

Phil and I have a disagreement - I think price and exchange value are
the same for labor power, he thinks the price of labor power fluctuates
around the exchange value. A position I once held. It all depends on how
you see the concept of 'socially necessary'. I would be interested in
hearing from Phil about where he finds any basis of support in Marx,
Engels, or other writers about how the price of labor power fluctuates
around its exchange value.

My view is that the concept of 'socially necessary labor' opens the door
to class struggle and other non-market forces to the determination of
price of all commodities - not just labor power.

Whether or not Marx, Engels or anyone else held a differenbt view, I
think this view is more consistent with history, and eliminates a lot of
the problems Marxists have traditionally had with value theory - i.e the
impossilibty of empirically proving the 'labor' theory of value.

All the best, Anthony


Phil Ferguson:
This is rather confused. The value of labour-power is determined in
precisely the same manner as the value of any other commodity - ie by
the socially necessary labour power that went into creating it.

The class struggle determines the *price* of labour-power, not its
value. The wage is the *price* of labour-power and, like the price of
any other commodity, fluctuates around the value. It may be higher or
lower than the value depending on a number of things - ie shortages of
labour-power, ability of organised workers to extract higher wages etc.

But the key point, in relation to labour aristocracy theory, is that
whether some workers can gain a *price* for their labour-power that is
above its value, they are *still being exploited* because they are still
creating surplus-value. Organised workers who are strong enough to
extract what we might call a 'good price' for the sale of their
labour-power thus still have a vested interest in joining with workers
on lower wages to take hold of the whole of the surplus and put it to
better social use than is currently the case when it is in the hands of
the capitalist class.

Moreover, since wage scales are constructed from the bottom up, the more
some workers can be paid the most crap wages and be generally
discriminated against, the more chance the bosses have of depressing the
wages of all workers.

Philip Ferguson


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