Economists generally assume that wage differentials among similar workers will only endure when competition in the capital and/or labor market is restricted. In contrast, Howard Botwinick uses a classical Marxist analysis of
real capitalist competition to show that substantial patterns of wage disparity can persist despite high levels of competition. Indeed, the author provocatively argues that competition and technical change often militate against wage equalization. In addition to providing the basis for a more unified analysis of race and gender inequality within labor markets, Botwinick’s work has important implications for contemporary union strategies. Going against mainstream proponents of labor-management cooperation, the author calls for militant union organization that can once again take wages and working conditions out of capitalist competition.
This revised edition was originally published under the same title in 1993 by Princeton University Press.
Howard Botwinick, Ph.D. (1985) New School for Social Research, is Associate Professor of Economics at SUNY Cortland. He has been active in several unions and was a founding member of the U.S. Labor Party in the 1990s.
Reviews of the original published in 1993 by Princeton Unversity Press:
Persistent Inequalities makes a major contribution to economic theory, bringing together a number of existing analytical elements and forging them into a coherent, logical analysis. Further, it includes important innovations. The analytical strength of the book lies in its use of competition as the explanatory mechanism for wage differential […] It offers an exciting and stimulating explanation of a real-world phenomenon and its social implications.”
University of London, Center for Development Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies
“Today employers cite ‘competitiveness’ as the reason for cutting wages and benefits and imposing new forms of speed-up. Good jobs are replaced by technology, on the one hand, and subcontracted, substandard jobs, on the other, as capital rushes to cut labor costs. The result is both a general decline in U.S. real wages, now below their 1973 level, and greater inequalities among workers. Persistent Inequalities gives us a contemporary Marxist analysis of wage and income differentials in the labor force – one that is based on the actual dynamics of capitalist competition. Because of this, economist Howard Botwinick, particularly in his conception of the ‘regulating capital,’ has given us a prism through which to craft strategies to end the very decline and inequality he explains.”
Kim Moody, author of
An Injury to All: The Decline of American Unionism and
US Labor in Trouble and Transition
“Botwinick’s scholarship is first-rate. His main objective is to reconstruct the explanation for interindustry and intraindustry wage differentials on the basis of the perspective of classical political economy and classical Marxism, rather than orthodox (neoclassical) economics. An important thrust of the book is the argument that the orthodox perspective, particularly in its human capital variant, fails to explain not only differences in earnings across occupations but also differences between persons who may differ ascriptively by race or by gender. The failure is due to the orthodox theory’s invalid characterization of competition. The author demonstrates that the classical perspective can be utilized to provide a much richer and persuasive theory of wage differences […] This work is certainly a significant contribution both to the theory of income distribution and to the theory of industrial organization in economics. In addition, the author explains difficult technical issues in an accessible fashion.”
William, Darity, Jr,
University of North Carolina
“Labor organizer turned economist, Howard Botwinick, has written a seminal book in labor economics. Drawing upon the theoretical work of his teacher, Anwar Shaikh of the New School for Social Research, Botwinick in
Persistent Inequalities has built what has eluded radical economists, namely, a fully determinate model of labor markets […] The beauty of Botwinick’s analysis is that, while class struggle enters into wage determination, wage rates are not completely indeterminate. There are concrete limits to wage increases […] Botwinick’s work has important implications for the labor movement. At any given time, there will be excellent organizing opportunities. Many of our service industries today are likely to be regulating capitals, and, therefore, good targets for unionization […] So are low-wage workers in highly capitalized industries […]”
Michael Yates, author of
Why Unions Matter, in
Monthly Review, February 1996
Table of contents
New Preface (2017 Edition) Preface and Acknowledgements (1993 Edition) List of Figures List of Tables
Introduction Breaking the Impasse Toward a Theoretical Alternative Implications for the Analysis of Discrimination On Heterogeneous Labour Comparing Our Results to Orthodox and Radical Economics Solving Some Anomalies Outline of the Argument
Continuing Attempts to Square the Circle (Or, Competitive Theory Confronts Differential Wage Rates) Early Neoclassical Wage Theory The Theory of Perfect Competition: Abstraction as Idealisation The Inevitable Schism between Theory and Practice The Theory of Imperfect Competition – Godsend or Albatross? Postwar Institutionalists: An Initial Attempt at Alternative Theory The Ascent of Human Capital Theory The Real World Strikes Back The New Institutionalists: The Dual Economy and Dual Labour Markets Labour Market Segmentation and Monopoly Capital The Initial Response to Segmentation Theory The Second Wave of Segmentation Arguments The Continuing Search for a Radical Alternative Efficiency Wage Theory: The Latest Attempt to Square the Circle
Capitalist Accumulation and the Aggregate Labour Market Marx versus Neoclassical Economics The Special Commodity Labour Power Primitive Accumulation and the ‘Doubly Free’ Labourer The Unique Logic of Labour Supply Capitalist Accumulation and the Reserve Army of Labour Marx’s Reserve Army within the Modern Period On the Necessity of Worker Resistance Capitalist Accumulation and the Limits to Rising Wage Rates Empirical Evidence for Limits to Rising Wage Rates
Wage Differentials and the Aggregate Labour Market Capitalism’s Active and Reserve Armies: Differentiation and ‘Segmentation’ in Their Most Basic Forms The Role of Workers in the Segmentation Process A Dynamic Analysis of Labour Mobility and Wage Differentiation Under Conditions of Permanent Underemployment Uneven Technical Change, Competition, and the Reserve Army: A Brief Glimpse of Marx’s Theory of Wage Differentials On the Incompleteness of Marx’s Work
Capitalist Competition and Differential Profit Rates Competition within Industries Competition between Industries Marx’s Concept of Regulating Capitals Empirical Evidence of Monopoly Chapter Summary Appendix to Chapter 5
Capitalist Competition and Differential Wage Rates (I): The Analysis of Regulating Capitals Overview of the Dynamic Adjustment to Changing Wage Rates Deriving Determinate Limits to Rising Wage Rates Limit One: The Immediate Profitability of Regulating Capitals Limit Two: The Unit Costs of Subdominant Capitals Further Implications for Inter- and Intraindustry Wage Patterns Limit Three: The Differential Costs of Obstructing Wage Increases Analysing the Effects of Uneven Worker Organisation A Final Note on Workers’ Power and the Costs of Obstruction The General Laws of Capitalist Accumulation
Capitalist Competition and Differential Wage Rates (II): Non-regulating Capitals and Differential Profit Rates The Case of Less Efficient Capitals Short-Term Effects of Rising Wage Rates The Case of More Efficient Capitals Implications of the Dynamic Equalisation of Profit Rates
Conclusion Capitalist Competition and Differential Wage Rates: Abundant Possibilities for Sustained Inequality Capitalist Accumulation and the Aggregate Labour Market: Further Sources of Wage Variation Comparing Our Results to Neoclassical Economics Comparing Our Results to Radical Economics Implications for Empirical Research Implications for the Contemporary Labour Movement
Afterword: The Past 20 Years Have Not Been Pretty Where Do We Go from Here? Lessons from the 1930s But Hasn’t Accelerated Globalisation Made the Old CIO Strategies Obsolete? Given the Dismal State of the Left, How Can We Get There from Here? A Final Lesson from the 1930s
Labor activists, undergraduate and grad students interested in labor economics, wage theory, Marxist political economy, labor management relations, and theories of discrimination and wage inequality. Academic libraries, Labor Institutes.