From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Mon Oct 03 2005 - 03:58:37 EDT
Diego In my opinion, we need to distinguish between two different things; a) labour can be productive or unproductive of surplus value; b) labour can produce things or services that are necessary in all kinds of societies or "contingents" (i.e., necessary only in class societies or specifically in capitalist societies). So that we have 4 possibilities. I illustrate them via some (not exhaustive) examples: "Necessary" labour "Contingent" labour Productive labour A) Productive+necessary labour Iron, cars..., transport and distribution services; legal, financial... services; teachers and physicians and other workers in private firms; employees in public (like in private) firms ... B) Productive+contingent labour Rolls Royce and other luxuries, Marketing services Gold or credit money Tanks, missiles, weapons... Waged prostitutes Private and public policy ... Unproductive labour C) Unproductive+necessary labour Teachers, physicians... and many other workers in Public Administration Domestic labour Autonomous workers ... D) Unproductive+contingent labour Pure circulation Autonomous prostitutes ... Paul I see problems with both the vertical and horizontal divisions that you use. First consider the vertical dividing line between necessary and contingent labour. You classify financial and legal services as 'non-contingernt' and therefore necessary in all kinds of societies according to your definition. I would contest that. Legal services exist primarily to contest claims of property right. In a communist country these private property right claims would not exist and thus there would be no need for lawyers to enforce or contest such claims. Financial services also exist to manage claims to private property right, and as such are specific to a regime of private ownership. Again they would not exist in a communist economy where there would be no share ownership and thus no share brokers etc. Now consider the horizontal dividing line between productive and unproductive labour. Why do you classify financial and legal services as productive? I would content that even in a capitalist society, financial and legal services are unproductive of surplus value. Consider the banks, they have two sources of income: bank charges made for carrying out transactions, and interest revenue. For the UK which has a very large financial sector, the accounts show that bank charges only cover a small part of the operating expenses of the banks. The fact that the banks make an overall net profit is due to their interest income, the fact that they charge interest on loans, but either offer no, or very little interest on current account balances. This along with their ability to create money enables them to grab a portion of the surplus value created in the productive sector. According to Marx, interest is a deduction from the total surplus value created in the productive sector- which is divided into interest and profit of enterprise. But this division is a subdivision of surplus value. Charging interest does not create surplus value. Since the workers in the banking sector are paid out of a share of surplus value, they can not create surplus value themselves. Their wages do not constitute variable capital. Instead they are analogous to feudal retainers paid out of the revenues of the propertied classes. We have had previous discussions on this list on unproductive labour, in 1998 , 2001, and 2003 at least, but this is the first time that I have seen the position you are advocating being put forward.
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