Re: [OPE-L] productive and unproductive labour and forms of surplus value

From: GERALD LEVY (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Wed Jan 16 2008 - 10:49:53 EST

Hi Paul C and Dave Z:
I have tried to show that productive labour is *any* labour which is 
productive of surplus value under capitalism *regardless of its form*.
Paul C in his latest message seems to recognize that an increase in 
the intensity of labour can increase the magnitude of surplus value
and this might cause some problems for your perspective. Previously,
I asked about absolute surplus value.  I think it is a mistake to dismiss
the possibility of increasing s through this form as irrelevant because 
of changes in labor law concerning payment for overtime work.  It 
_still_ happens in many firms (there is a section of the movie "Wal-
Mart: The High Cost of Low Living" on this) and it is extremelely 
commonplace in its quasi-form (*) today.
Perhaps the major reason why different forms of increasing s 
need to be stressed is that it allows one to conceive of the
various ways in which capitalists can strategize about increasing 
surplus-value.  More broadly, because the distinction concerns 
what is productive from the *standpoint of capital* (or as Mike 
L put it: "*productive labour for capital*, labour which serves the
need and goal of capital - valorisation"), I think it is a serious
mistake to embrace _this_ distinction from a working-class
perspective.  The position that you have put forward seems to
conflate productive labour from the standpoint of capital
with productive labour from the standpoint of workers. 
On the latter topic, Mike L wrote:
"Like productive labour for capital, the concept of productive
labour for the worker (which corresponds to Ian Gough's 
concept of 'reproductive' labour) has a specific class bias. It
excludes, for example, 'luxuries' (non-'basics') which do not
enter into the production  of workers: it is not in this sense
to be confused with the concept of productive labour *in 
general* (although it coincides with the latter in a society
of associated producers). Thus, productive labour for the
worker is consistent with what E.K. Hunt (following Paul
Baran) has defined as labour which 'fulfills a real human need
that would be important to fulfill even after the triumph of 
a socialist regime'". (Lebowitz, _Beyond Capital, 1st edition, 
p. 102).
As you can see, many of the perspectives on productive 
labour which you have presented (including the production 
of basic goods) have commonalities with earlier perspectives
put forward by others and grouped by Mike L into concepts
which concern "productive labour for the worker".
In solidarity, Jerry 
(*) by 'absolute s in  its quasi-form' I  mean the following:
given the fact that benefits are often fixed at a certain 
amount / worker,  even if workers are paid for overtime
firms often have a big incentive to increase the length
of the working day and the length of the workweek 
(rather than hire more workers) because the 'real labour 
cost' (wages + benefits)  to produce a unit of output will be 
lower for capitalists who are able to extend the length of the
working day/ workweek.  
PS to Jurriaan: this discussion has spun-off from its origins. 
I do not want you to think that I  have been ignoring what
you addressed ("the Moseley paradox").   Hopefully, we can 
return to that issue in due course.
> Our argument is that> > > 1. Marx says productive labour is that which is productive of surplus value.> > > 2. The main mechanism that capitalism has for producing surplus value> is technical advances which reduce necessary labour time - relative> surplus value.> > 3. Because of the interelated character of production, relative surplus> value's production may be distal to its realisation.> > 4. To produce relative surplus value a production process must be> Sraffian basic or must produce wage goods.> > 5. Hence only these are productive.

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