[OPE-L:5108] Re: Re: Re: productive and unproductive labor (again)

From: Paul Cockshott (paul@cockshott.com)
Date: Mon Mar 05 2001 - 04:39:52 EST

On Sat, 03 Mar 2001, you wrote:

> What is considered to be "productive" or "unproductive"
> labor varies with the mode of production.  In the
> capitalist mode of production, these categories concern
> whether labor is or is not productive of surplus
> value (as distinct from the surplus product).
> What this suggests is that for social formations in
> which there are a number of modes of production
> present, then the value relation is not entirely
> adequate for the conceptualization of labor in that
> social formation.

I agree. But this is not a question that can be put to
one side. The problem of the articulation of modes of
production is vital if ones analysis is to be politically
relevant, since in large measure the struggle between
models of production and their representative classes
is what politics is all about.

>  > <snip, JL> 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.
> This might very well be the case (Fred came to a
> similar conclusion), but you would agree that we
> should think of the European countries (with the
> possible exception of former "socialist" countries)
> as nations in which the capitalist mode of production
> is dominant and in which the remnants of prior
> modes of production have only a marginal influence,
> wouldn't you?
Prior mode of production yes, but the question is
more one of articulation between:

1. Simple commodity production, one can not understand
    the CAP without taking this into account.
2. Private capitalism.
3. State capitalism.
4. The socialist sector.

In Britain and some other European economies in the late
20th century, sectors 3 and 4 were very significant as
fractions of the social labour activity. The politics of the
right since then have been directed at reducing the
components 3and 4 in favour of section 2. 

In doing this they have used the concept of unproductive
labour as an underlying justification for their policies. This
was clearly articulated in Bacon and Eltis's book 
'Too Few Producers' which came out just before the
Thatcher govt came to power, and which provided a
theoretical underpinning of much of those policies.
They use the classical smithian definition of unproductive.

To the extent that the definition by Marx parallels the
smithian one, it provides an inadequate bases to respond
to the attacks on public services by the right. One needs
as charlie points out a more modern conceptualisation.

> > I think that we need two different concepts:
> > 1. socially productive
> This is a concept which is trans-historical.

It is intended to be such, since on has to separate
out what is materially productive from what appears
to be productive to just one class in society.

> > 2. productive for the capitalist class as a whole
> This must center around the creation of value rather than
> social wealth.
Paul Cockshott, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland
0141 330 3125  mobile:07946 476966

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