reserve army of labour

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reserve army of labour

unemployed workers, their number continuously renewed within capitalism, who by competing for jobs help to depress wages. In Marxism, the existence of this group is held to tend to force wages down to subsistence levels. Marxists, however, acknowledge that, in practice, a tendency to immiseration from this source is offset by a number of counteracting tendencies, including trade union action, which have increased the ‘historical and moral’ element in the value of labour power. Nevertheless, that unemployment remains a factor in the bargaining power possessed by labour, is seen in the correlation that exists between periods of full employment and wage increases and wage inflation.
References in periodicals archive ?
The creation of "the relative surplus population" or "the industrial reserve army" is continuously reproduced as "a necessary part of the working mechanism of the capitalist mode of production." The relative surplus population takes a variety of forms in modern society, "including the unemployed; the sporadically employed; the part-time employed; the mass of women who, as house workers, form a reserve for the 'female occupations'; the armies of migrant labor, both agricultural and industrial; the black population with its extraordinarily high rates of unemployment; and the foreign reserves of labor." (28)
For Marx, the relative surplus population is not an aberration or an incidental consequence of the capitalist economy, but rather the "lever of capitalist accumulation, nay, a condition of the existence of the capitalist mode of production.
that always equilibrates the relative surplus population ...
In the current crisis, there has been a growth of what Marx called the stagnant relative surplus population, whose employment is irregular and marginal.
That's why Karl Marx, the communist, thought of the unemployed--the "relative surplus population"--as the "pivot on which the law of supply and demand in labor works." But you don't have to be a communist to see the utility (to employers) of unemployment.
As a picture of the "relative surplus population" rather than of the unemployed, "Wand 1" is not interested in eliciting our sympathy.
The absolute general law of accumulation under capitalism, for Marx, pointed to an increase in the relative surplus population and a polarization of rich and poor.
All of them assume the status of a relative surplus population modified in its working by the circumstances of contemporary American capitalism.
Marx views the general movement of wages as exclusively regulated by the expansion and contraction of the relative surplus population. Wages aren't, he insists, "determined by the variations of the absolute numbers of the working population, but by the varying proportions in which the working class is divided into an active army and reserve army, by the increase or diminution in the relative amount of surplus population, by the extent to which it is alternately absorbed and set free."(27) Indeed, he acknowledges that sometimes wages might rise if demands for labor rise.
The condition of the floating relative surplus population, meanwhile, comprises a similar dialectic of repulsion and attraction; and likewise their circumstances are wholly unstable, wholly uncertain.