Hay, carrots, bread and roses: subsistence and surplus wages in Sraffa's papers
This paper focuses on the concepts of subsistence and surplus wages as proposed by Sraffa. Wages have a double component: they are both a cost of production and a share of net income – an ambivalence that reﬂects deep tensions inherent in the nature of wage labour as a commodity that needs to be reproduced, but also can negotiate its own price. This ambivalence conceals a double perspective: for capitalists, wages are a cost, whereas, for workers, they are the entitlement to the means of subsistence. This means that within the deﬁnition of wages is hidden a conﬂict of interests: understood as a cost, workers’ consumption is merely functional to the production and realization of proﬁt, but, from the workers’ point of view, wages are means of their well-being (Sen, 1985).