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

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Sun Feb 03 2008 - 10:16:12 EST

I disagree with you about whether capitalism requires the existence of a personal class of capitalists.
I think the inate tendancy of the mode of production is towards the depersonalisation of capital, and
that this reaches its extreeme form in state capitalism.

On the function of the idea of unproductive/productive labour distinction. I agree with you on
Smith, but with regard to Marx you do not give a purpose to the distinction, you say it concerned
the specific form in which exploitation took place, but I feel that

a. In saying this you are not giving a purpose

b. You are failing to take into account his arguments about faux-frais etc. These only make sense
   if the disctinction has some component other than just the form of exploitation. The form of
   exploitation is wage labour, but he says various forms of wage labour are unproductive.
   If the purpose is just to point out that wage labour is exploited, then the only distinction
   would be between wage labour and self employed labour not between productive and unproductive labour.

Paul Cockshott
Dept of Computing Science
University of Glasgow
+44 141 330 1629

-----Original Message-----
From: OPE-L on behalf of Jerry Levy
Sent: Sun 2/3/2008 12:18 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] "Levels of abstraction"
>> 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.

Hi Paul C:

If there is a capitalist class then its reproduction as a class requires commodities for the individual consumption of that class.
If there is no capitalist class, then there is no capitalism.

>>  You have to ask yourself Gerry, just what you think the
>> purpose of the distinction between productive and unproductive
>> labour was for Smith and Marx.
>> Why do they talk about it at all?
>> Why do they use the word 'productive'?

For Smith, it was tied to his answer for how the wealth of the nation could be increased.  For Marx, it concerned the specific form that exploitation takes under capitalism. These purposes are related, but not the same.

In solidarity, Jerry

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