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

From: Allin Cottrell (cottrell@WFU.EDU)
Date: Tue Oct 11 2005 - 15:27:41 EDT

On Tue, 11 Oct 2005, Diego Guerrero wrote:

> Cars: according to [Paul], labour is productive only if they are
> cheap, but unproductive if the cars are expensive (luxuries).

Consider an increase in the physical productivity of labour in a car
factory.  How, if at all, does this lead to an increase in aggregate
surplus value?  The classic answer (which seems to me right) is that
the increase in surplus value comes about via a reduction in the
necessary labour time -- the labour-time required for the
reproduction of labour-power.

That is plausible if the increase in productivity occurs in a
factory producing VWs, Fords, or what have you.  It does not apply
if the productivity improvement is confined to factories producing
Lamborghinis or Aston Martins, since these commodities do not enter
into workers' consumption, directly or indirectly.  In that case,
the extra productivity just means that the rich get to consume a bit
more.  There may be some second-order effect if demand is inelastic
and workers are displaced from luxury car production into Depts I or
II, though it's not clear why that should happen.

Paul is not just saying that, e.g., luxury cars are a "contingent"
commodity, something that would not be produced under socialism.
He's making a point (following Ricardo) about the role of the
production of such commodities in the dynamics of capitalism, namely
that improvements in productivity for such commodities have no
first-order effect on wages or profits, but only on the real income
of capitalists.

Allin Cottrell

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