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

From: paul bullock (paulbullock@EBMS-LTD.CO.UK)
Date: Thu Jan 17 2008 - 18:26:21 EST

I thought i had attached an article on this but it doesnt seem to have
arrived.. so here it is again

----- Original Message -----
From: "Dave Zachariah" <davez@KTH.SE>
Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2008 9:28 AM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] productive and unproductive labour and forms of surplus

> 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
> economy.
> //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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