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

From: Dave Zachariah (davez@KTH.SE)
Date: Thu Jan 17 2008 - 04:28:50 EST

Jerry, I think you need to put the argument in some formalism to make it
transparent. Let's use the three department model with monetary variables.

The total surplus value created in Dept. I and II is spent on investment
and unproductive expenditure on commodities produced in Dept. III.
Therefore, whatever surplus value earned in Dept. III are deductions of
the surplus value from Dept. I and II.

An increase in the intensity of labour, i.e. a rise in productivity, in
Dept. III will not alter this fact. If the unproductive expenditure in
Dept. I and Dept. II does not rise it means that workers in Dept. III will
be laid off, thus converting a portion of its value added from wages to
surplus value.

But the limit on the magnitude of surplus value in Dept. III is determined
in Dept. I and II.

A significant disadvantage of your use of "productive labour" is that it
can only operate with a pure model of capitalism, whereas the definition
that Paul C and I are using is applicable to any economy with a division
of social labour.

Moreover, what is "productive labour from the standpoint of capital" is
simply that labour which capitalists firms deem to be necessary to earn a
profit; this includes lawyers, financial advisors, PR-firms, marketing
etc. It takes no consideration to the material reproduction of the

//Dave Z

> 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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