Re: [OPE] Services (->Paula)

From: Dave Zachariah <>
Date: Tue Jan 06 2009 - 09:51:00 EST

Jurriaan Bendien wrote:
> To my knowledge, I was the first scholar to emphasize that Marx and
> Engels got their notion of "productive forces" from Adam Smith (and I
> stated this explicitly in the wiki article
> ).

Yes, perhaps you were the first scholar. However, I have taken that for
granted ever since I read the first page of Smith's introduction to
Wealth of Nations in English, where he mentions the 'productive powers
of labour'. In Swedish 'productive forces' is 'produktivkrafter' where
'kraft' is often translated as 'force' but also as 'power' or 'capacity'.

> [E]conomic growth is not simply a technical-material process
> specifiable in terms of an "output vector". To think that it is, is a
> vulgar techno-liberal reification and I find it astonishing that a
> self-proclaimed Marxist would make such a claim.

It is not so astonishing if you think about it. You inquired about the
meaning of 'economic growth' which is very vague. It means *at least*
two things:

   1. the growth of output (flow)
   2. the growth of wealth (stock)

I thought you were referring to (1). Well, the common sense meaning of
that is a quantitative increase in the bundle of use-values that a
society produces from a given period to another. True, what we consider
to be use-values here are not 'neutral' but in any case a 'bundle of
use-values', whether stock or flow, can be formalised in vector
notation, there is nothing strange about that. Human beings produce,
consume and operate with these vectors under specific social relations.

> [I]t is quite possible to produce a lot of extra physical output
> without any economic growth occurring at all, since whether economic
> growth will occur, depends in part on what exactly is done with the output

Indeed, that is precisely what the basic goods criterion of productive
labour focuses on!

I note that you are very keen on labeling other people in a discussion
but make no effort to advance a *concise* and coherent alternative of
you own. E.g. what precisely do you mean by 'economic growth'?

> You are also entitled to devise a transhistorical concept of
> productive labour, but the point is that this will not necessarily
> apply in the case of capitalism.

Well, this is just an assertion. We have demonstrated how it applies to
capitalist economies.

Again, you have not yet advanced a coherent and concise theory of
productive labour to the discussion. Clearly, you are advocating a
'surplus value' criterion of productive labour. What are its merits
vis-a-vis the merits I put forward?

Note the constant danger of circular reasoning when one adopts the
'surplus value' criterion: productive labour produces surplus-value, and
surplus-value is created by productive labour only. Ultimately it can
only mean that the labour which is profitable for capitalist firms is
productive. Anything more specific would require additional criteria
with additional justification.

//Dave Z
ope mailing list
Received on Tue Jan 6 09:52:52 2009

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