Re: [OPE-L] "Levels of abstraction"

From: Paul Cockshott (clyder@GN.APC.ORG)
Date: Sat Feb 02 2008 - 11:26:08 EST

Quoting Jerry Levy <jerry_levy@VERIZON.NET>:

> > The crucial point is the asymmetry here: The existence of Dept. I > and
> Dept. II does not depend on the surplus value spent in
> > Dept.III whereas it ceases to exist the moment Depts. I and II
> > direct the flow of surplus value away from it. This mirrors the
> > underlying relation in the material reproduction of society.
> Hi Dave Z:
> The existence and reproduction under capitalism of Departments I and II
> depends on the reproduction of the capital-wage labour relation - a relation 
> that requires the individual consumption of some commodities by capitalists.

No this is not true.
Capitalist firms can be managed by staff working for a salary, the 
capitalist can be an abstract legal personality - the Welcome Trust for
example, which need not engage in individual consumption.  
To the exent that managerial labour is actually necessary for co-ordinating
the labour process, it counts as necessary labour, and its remuneration
is not part of surplus value.

You have to ask yourself Gerry, just what you think the purpose of the
distinction between productive and unproductive labour was for Smith and

Why do they talk about it at all?

Why do they use the word 'productive'?

There are a large number of different possible characterisations of
labour -- morning versus afternoon labour, child versus adult labour,
female versus male, left handed versus right handed. What is specific
and important about the distinction productive and unproductive?

> Surplus _value_ is "liquid", though.  Surplus _value_ is not just a
> "collection of goods and services produced over a given period".
> In solidarity, Jerry

No, this is an illusion engendered by exchange.

The surplus value of a society is always actually a particular
physical surplus product. The individual claim on this made by
one particular juridical subject, measured in money is abstract,
and entitles them to an arbitrarily composed part of that material
surplus up to a certain value, but for the capitalist class this
as a whole it is not liquid. Marx points this out when he ridicules
the 'abstention' theory of profit, saying how absurd it was to
think that capitalists abstained from personally consuming new
raw cotton, new spinning mules etc.

Paul Cockshott

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