[OPE-L] Dumenil and Levy on Unproductive Labor

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Sat Apr 22 2006 - 14:03:37 EDT


You wrote:

He also had this to say:

" ... the wages of superintendence do not enter [into the] average rate
of profit at all" (_Theories of Surplus Value_, III, Progress ed.,
p. 505).

I cannot trace the context of this remark, but if I remember correctly Marx
argued in these manuscripts against an apologetic interpretation of profit
as the "wages of superintendence". His argument here seems to be, that this
idea might make some sense only in the case of the old-style "functioning
capitalist" who directly participates in the production process, but that in
a full-fledged capitalist mode of production, the ownership function of
capital and managerial functions are separated. Sometimes he suggests that
the wages of management are a "faux frais of production" (a constant capital
outlay).  In that case, you would think that managerial labour in private
enterprise is a capital cost met from sales revenues which enters into the
cost structure of the product, but is it part of C, V, or S or none of
these? There are these four logical possibilities given the theory.
"Theories of Surplus Value" was written in 1863 and most of the manuscript
of Cap. Vol. 3 was written after that. If managerial labour could be either
productive or non-productive, as he later says, my hunch is we would need to
examine more closely the real division of labour which operates, in order to
ascertain the portion of each. But I think we can reject out of hand the
idea that all managerial labour is non-productive; supposing all managerial
labour was suddenly withdrawn, production would collapse, though probably
the withdrawal of a portion of it would make little difference. The problem
here is really that Marxists wanted to operate a quick classification schema
without actually investigating all the different activities subsumed under
managerial/supervisory/executive labour.

This type of discussion also has some bearing on the debates about the
Soviet bureaucracy. The Trotskyists and IS-type people (and some Maoists)
claimed that the officialdom performed *no productive function* at all, by
definition. But if you know a bit more about the reality of the organisation
of production in the USSR, this assertion simply will not wash. Any mode of
production based on a complex division of labour requires managerial labour
of some kind, though we might dispute about what sorts are really
technically indispensable, and how these tasks are allocated.

See also: G. DumÚnil, D. LÚvy, "The Emergence and Functions of Managerial
and Clerical Personnel in Marx's Capital, pp. 61-81", 1994, in N. Garston,
Bureaucracy: Three Paradigms, Kluwer Academic, Boston, Dordrecht, London,

Once I get time, I aim to delve further into the theory of bureaucracy - I
think the topic needs a good overhaul. How valid is it really to superimpose
a schema from a previous epoch of history on current realities?


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