From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Mon Oct 03 2005 - 08:08:22 EDT
Diego ------- Financial services also include transfers of money (and other services), a special type of transport of things. May be in the future there will be no money, but I think it will keep being some sort of means of payment that will need to be "transported" from here to there, etc. Of course, if we reduce its activity to money I agree with you again. Paul Cockshott I am not sure that the analogy with transport is relevant here. Banks are involved in record keeping, both to carry out payments and to levy interest. The activity of record keeping is distinct from transport, in that transport involves the physical movement of things from one place to another. The keeping of account records is something different from transport. Its aim is not to move things but to maintain and update a relation between economic subjects and quantities of a unit of account. The physical transport of gold coin between the safes of different money holders is a particular way of maintaining such records, but has been a totally subsidiary activity since the onset of capitalist banking in the middle ages. From the early trade fairs of the middle ages, the settling of accounts by merchant bankers had already displaced the physical transport of gold for most trading operations. This enabled transport to be restricted to its proper use - the movement of goods to where they were of use - and obviated the need to ship gold about. Record keeping and economic calculation are activities required in all civilizations, but financial services are a specifically capitalist form of record keeping and as such are not required in pre or post capitalist civilizations. Non capitalist societies do not require the transport of means of payment from place to place. The Inca for example had economic calculation but did not ship gold about as a means of payment. Instead the record keeping took the form of knots on string. If Polanyi is to be believed the same applied to early Summerian civilization, where there was no shipment of coin or bullion about, but records of the movement of goods and tax liabilities were maintained in written form on clay. In all cases such record keeping constitutes what marx called the unproductive faux frais of the mode of production. I think that the bank sector's rate of profit is fixed like in other sectors. Profit here is the difference between the sum of interests received (due to loans and credits being in the assets of bank assets) and the interests paid to people and firms, and has to be compared to total capital of the banks. But what workers in the bank sector do is the same that workers in the mining sector did (and keep doing) when producing the gold necessary for money to circulate; of course, you have to add to those miners people working in making the coins, printing notes, etc. So it is this why I believe they are productive as far as they do that. Paul Cockshott How do you believe that the rate of profit of the banks is fixed? This was one of the points I was trying to make. Bank charges could conceivably be viewed as a payment for the 'commodity' of commercial record keeping. But the banks own accounts show that the revenues from this commodity cover only a small part of the costs of the banks. Let us leave out for the moment whether the work on the 'commodity' of commercial record keeping is productive and discuss that lower down. Since bank charges only pay for a part of the work done in banks, the rest of the work done in the banks is paid for out of interest. Since interest is a deduction from the surplus value, that value was produced by the labour of productive workers in the firms to whom the loans were made. Since their wages are paid from value created elsewhere, their labour can not be productive of value. But even that part of the labour costs of a bank that are met out of bank charges which are thus a charge for the work of record keeping in ordinary commercial transactions is not itself productive. Since what these record keeping activities do is still a matter of regulating the claims of different proprietors. As such they are labour expended to maintain the social hierarchy, and no more productive than the ministry of priests. Diego It is the same thing that in trade. In supermarkets and malls workers do not circulate commodities more than in any other sectors. They do productive labour in transporting, ranging, stocking... commodities. Commodities are only commodities when the products that they contain are use values for the buyers as well, and they would be of no value if they did not be in the shelves waiting for their potential consumers. Paul I agree that the supermarkets do employ some productive workers - those involved with the physical transport of goods. They also employ unproductive workers - those involved with the charging for the goods being sold, or those involved with advertising and promotion.
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