Labour History

Minimum Living Standards and the Working-Class Surplus: Higgins, Henderson and Housing

Labour History (2008), 95, (1), 213–221.

Abstract

In the light of growing household indebtedness in Australia and the stark experience of the sub-prime mortgage market in the United States of America this article develops a parallel between the lending practices of current financial institutions, and debates around the 1907 Harvester Judgment; in particular, the different perspectives of Mr Justice Higgins and H.V. McKay on the role of minimum standards of living and the potential for wages to contribute to capital accumulation. In different ways and in different contexts, these two processes a century apart offer perspective on the determination of minimum working-class consumption and the capacity of capital to re-convert part of wages into payments to capital (a surplus). The article draws out the parallels, and how each might be used to shed new light on the other.

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Author details

Bryan, Dick

Table of Contents

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