Re: [OPE] Services (->Paula)

From: paul bullock <>
Date: Tue Jan 06 2009 - 17:50:14 EST

Value can only be recognised as such when it takes on the money form, at
that moment the value in the commodity is apparent. The commodity is
baptised as a use value, is proved to have a useful quality by the
purchaser. If a good is not sold, its existence both as use value and value
perishes. The 'separateness' of use value and value is an analytical,
conceptual, issue. In 'reality', in every day practical life they cannot
exist separately since the commodity calls upon money to prove its unity as
use value and value. Thus the social relation or production are provided
with a fetish.

The abstract quality of the labour that produces and reproduces (preserves)
value is its general social quality. It is labour that has proved itself
socially desirable albeit privately worked. The market provides the
framework in which this quality can be established. Accurately, labour
power in use is indirectly social, since it is chained to private means of
production although necessarily consumed by public subscription if the value
it proves to have created is to be accumulated by the private owner..

If a chain of baber shops opens up, established capitalistically, and not as
a the sole trader or the servant used in Marx's Grundrisse example, then
profits are made. The service is unproductively consumed by the worker or
the capitalist out of their revenue . If we were to say that the labour of
these barbers was not productive of value, then we would have to apply the
same logic to every consumer item purchased by the workers... or are you
denying that the workers need to take care of their personal hygiene as much
as wear clothes? Presently, on the whole, barbers tend to be sole traders
and the provision of this and many similar services leaves them (no doubt
regretably from capital's standpoint) out of the hands of capitalist
masters. It is not the nature of the product of service that determines
whether the labour producing them is productive or not, but the social
relation of production in which the labour is employed. Thus labour
producing weapons by capitalism, essential for its survival, produce surplus
value and so profit, and rent and interest, however the nature of the use
value produced has consequences subsequently. That is another question,
which needs to be discussed, but it is different.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Cockshott" <>
To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" <>
Sent: Tuesday, January 06, 2009 9:59 AM
Subject: Re: [OPE] Services (->Paula)

> Paula wrote:
>> The distinction that we are interested in, however, is that between
>> useful labor (which produces use-values or utilities, as above) and
>> abstract labor (which produces value, and therefore, in normal
>> circumstances, surplus-value). What is value, then, and what is this
>> abstract labor that produces it? My answer derives from Marx's notion of
>> commodity fetishism - that value is a material relation between people
>> that takes the form of a social relation between things. Now, while every
>> relation between people is material, we are here only concerned with one
>> kind of relation - the production of material objects for others in their
>> most simple form, ie, abstracted from their practical utility. This is
>> the only kind of material relation between people that, under capitalism,
>> takes the form of a value relation between things.
>> It follows that the labor that produces razors for a capitalist is
>> productive of value, but the labor of the barber is not, even if it might
>> be productive of profits - all this regardless of who uses the razor's or
>> the barber's services, whether a worker or a capitalist; and regardless
>> also of the quality of those services, etc. The merit of this approach is
>> that it corresponds to the aim of capitalist production - not the
>> provision of concrete services to society but the accumulation of
>> material wealth /per se/.
> These are relatively non-controversial examples.
> Try instead looking at the labour in the Aldermaston atomic weapons
> factory, is that productive or not?
> What about the labour of the staff of an advertising agency?
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