[OPE-L:5094] Re: productive and unproductive labor (again)

From: Paul Cockshott (paul@cockshott.com)
Date: Fri Mar 02 2001 - 06:43:01 EST

On Fri, 02 Mar 2001, you wrote:
> ( A definition offered in the S/T book is:
> "Productive labor is the production labor
> employed in capitalist production sectors: 
> agriculture, mining, construction, transportation
> and public utilities, manufacturing, and 
> productive services (defined as all services
> except business services, legal services, and
> private households; see Table E.1 for a full 
> listing of productive services). It excludes 
> nonproduction labor (sales, etc.) employed in 
> the production sectors such as trade or
> finance.  Total productive labor is the sum
> of the production workers in each production sector. Total unproductive labor is the sum
> of nonproduction workers in the production
> sectors and all workers in the nonproduction
> sectors", p. 295).
This is essentially the definition that I have worked to in empirical
studies going back to the 1970's, recently however I have
come to doubt its correctness. It is predicated upon an assumption
that the social formation is a pure capitalist mode of production.
For social formations containing a combination of modes of
production this is not necessarily an adequate categorisation.

It has peverse results such as workers in government direct
labour departments building roads being unproductive, when
the same work done by private contractors is productive.
Now clearly in the case of the private contractors, a profit
is earned and so either:

1. The private contractors have been overpaid, or have under
   performed in road quality.
2. They have paid their workers less
3. They have used less labour due to use of more machinery
    or less wated time.

Whilst the transfer to private contractors may result in an
increase in the social surplus product (cases 2,3) this
is not necessarily the case. 

In any case, the product, the road is a directly social
good not assuming the form of a commodity. To the extent
that a large part of the social product takes this form, as
it has at times in some European countries,  it would appear
that the economy becomes increasingly unproductive.

I think that we need two different concepts:
	1. socially productive
	2. productive for the capitalist class as a whole

Labour productive for the capitalist class will be a subset
of the labour that is socially productive, but some categories
of socially productive labour may not be capitalistically

Paul Cockshott, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland
0141 330 3125  mobile:07946 476966

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