Re: [OPE-L] basics vs. non-basics and financial services

Date: Thu Oct 06 2005 - 20:19:41 EDT

On Thu, 6 Oct 2005 21:26:38 +0100
  Paul Cockshott <wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK> wrote:
> -----Original Message-----
>From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of Rakesh Bhandari
> Sent: 06 October 2005 16:47
> Subject: Re: [OPE-L] basics vs. non-basics and financial services
> At 12:01 PM +0200 10/6/05, Diego Guerrero wrote:
> Rakesh
> As I have noted, Paul C's attempt to defend a Smith criterion of
> productive labor in material terms cannot be squared with his
> Keynesian understanding that unproductive labor in those terms can in
> fact be productive from the perspective of growth of value and use
> value. I don't know whether Paul has conceded this, but my criticism
> of his eclectic theory seems unanswered to me. Perhaps I am missing
> something.
> Paul
> The point Rakesh is that whilst any sort of activity can stimulate
> employment - even Keynes joke about the state burying banknotes in
> milkbottles at the bottom of mines and employing people to dig them out
> -
> the employment that is stimulated is not necessarily productive.

An activity that stimulates employment does not seem to me simply unproductive;
an activity which returns capital and surplus value is not simply unproductive from
the perspective of capital
as is the hiring of dependant servants for personal services.

> A stimulation of employment may pull the economy out of recession
> and allow the expansion of the basic sector which in turn will allow
> the physical surplus of the basic sector to grow, and this, when
> expressed in money terms will represent surplus exchange value.
> Unproductive employment in the military may stimulate this but
> that does not make employment in the military productive.

Well it is productive enough to have pulled the economy out of recession and
allowed the expansion of the basic sector. Your choice not to call it productive
seems arbitrary in what you have conceded.
Moreover, do remember that you defended Andrew Trigg's argument
that the whole economy could be pulled forward as long as banks were
willing to finance and capitalists were will to indulge in ever more orgiastic
luxury spending. Now you are arguing that luxury spending is not truly
productive, but this runs against Trigg's, Kalecki's and Keynes' argument.
You simply have to choose between Smith and Keynes.

> Smiths concept of productive labour was tied to accumulation. For
> him labour is productive if it contributes to accumulation. He gives
> two definitions of this:
> 1. That the labour must be employed out of capital not revenue
Yes and this is not simply a juridical distinction.

> 2. That it must fix itself in a vendible commodity
> I think he was right to give both definitions. The first definition
> presents the matter from the standpoint of the individual capitalist,
> that he will get poor by employing servants out of revenue but rich
> from employing workers out of capital. The second definition applies
> from the standpoint of the economy as a whole. The economy as a whole
> can only accumulate physical commodities - it can not accumulate
> banknotes
> or haircuts. Hence the insistence that accumulation depended on
> labour being fixed in vendible commodities. It is presented more as
> an intuition than an elaborated argument, but the intuition is sound.
The production of non durable commodities obviously plays an important role
in the reproduction of labour power. Your emphasis seems unjustified.

> On the issue raised by Jerry of whether Smith was a historical
> materialist, my understanding was that Marx and Engels did not
> claim to have invented the materialist approach to history.

Marx surely understand that however a materialist Smith may have been,
his conception of the individual was a historical.

  This had
> already been put forward by Scottish Enlightenment writers like
>Ferguson and Smith and Millar. A good Ricardian economist like Cairnes
> seems to me to be also a historical materialist.

Marx thinks Richard Jones did the most to develop historical materialism before him.
He also sharpened Smith's distinction between capital and revenue, and made it
the key to understanding modal differences.


His analysis of
> the Slave Power, is pretty close to a historical materialist
> conjunctural analysis.

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