[Marxism] Someone hit the nail

Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Tue Aug 7 00:47:57 MDT 2007

On 8/6/07, Nestor Gorojovsky <nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar> wrote:
> Joaquín Bustelo, some days ago, hit the following nail:
   . . .
> And I guess that if you went to Samir Amin you would find lots of
> theory to support your point.

and i quickly suggested at the time that "if memory served" Giovanni
Arrighi had done work in this area but my memory wasn't good as i've
realized the name i was trying to recall was
Arghiri Emmanuel

Arghiri Emmanuel
>From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Arghiri Emmanuel (born Patras, Greece, 1911, died 2001) was an
economist who became known in the 1960s and 1970s for his theory of
'unequal exchange'. The theory was an attempt to explain the falling
trend in the terms of trade for underdeveloped countries, while
criticising the different approaches of Raúl Prebisch, Hans Singer,
and Arthur Lewis to do so as only half-hearted attempts. It stated,
contrary to the then conventional Heckscher-Ohlin-Samuelson theory,
that it was politically and historically set wage-levels that
determined relative prices, not the other way around, and, contrary to
the assumptions of Ricardo's comparative costs, that capital was
internationally mobile and the rate of profit correspondingly

What made the theory a heated subject in Marxist and dependendista
circles was the theory's implications about international worker
solidarity. Emmanuel was not late to point out that his theory fitted
well with the observed absence of such solidarity, particularly
between high- and low-wage countries, and, in fact, made the
nationally enclosed workers movements into the principal cause of
unequal exchange. By contrast, all subsequent versions of the theory
such as those by Samir Amin, Oscar Braun, Jan Otto Andersson, Paul
Antoine Delarue, and almost every critic since Charles Bettelheim,
have preferred to make higher productivity the cause (and thereby
justification) of higher wages, and 'monopolies' the cause of unequal

Emmanuel's theory of unequal exchange was part of a more comprehensive
explanation of the post-war capitalist economy. In Emmanuel's view,
due to the fact that selling had to take place without the income
generated by the sale itself, there was a permanent excess of (the
value of) goods over (the purchasing power of) income in the normal
workings of a market economy. This obliged the economy to function
below its full potential and made it prone to crises such as the one
he had himself experienced during the Great Depression.

By contrast, the boom of the 'thirty glorious' post-war years
indicated that this normal functioning had somehow been evaded, and
Emmanuel now offered the institutionalised rise in wages, plus a
policy of permanent inflation, as the principal stimulant directing
the boom in investments. Since neither the wage nor the consumption
levels of the well-off countries could be internationally equalised -
upwards for both ecological reasons and because it would eat up all
profits, and downwards for political reasons in the same rich
countries - unequal exchange was the necessary consequence, in a sense
saving the capitalist economy from itself.

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