Re: [OPE] Services (->Paula)

From: Paula <>
Date: Sun Jan 11 2009 - 03:03:11 EST

Ian asked:
> Why don't you think the barber produces a material product? He
> produces clean-shaven men.

Just as Ian himself said later, the priest also produces a material product,
Christian-minded men. But are men commodities? Does the barber add to the
value of a man by shaving him? No. Barbering labor produces a service, a
use-value, but not a value. And this remains the case when the barber is
employed for a profit (as some barbers, many hairdressers, manicurists, etc,
are today).

Every human activity produces a material effect, which is the 'product' of
that activity. The same with labor, one type of human activity. But it does
not follow that all products of human labor have value; even under
capitalism, some only have use-value.

Paul C. mentioned advertising labor - a good example. Certainly this labor
1) 'produces' a material product - eg advertising images, jingles, slogans;
2) 'produces' services that are useful to different social classes - eg
information, entertainment, publicity; and 3) 'produces' profits for the
advertising agency. Advertising labor is 'productive' in all these senses -
but is it productive of value? I don't think so, and most Marxists don't
think so. Why not? If we can answer this question properly, we'll figure out
what productive labor is, and whether or not so-called service labor is

If advertising labor is unproductive, then 'the social relation' can't
possibly be the decisive factor, if by 'social relation' we mean 'employed
by capital for profit'. This kind of social relation would be a necessary
but not sufficient condition (as I understand Dave was saying). There is a
further necessary condition, concerning the kind of labor - productive labor
is abstract labor, not useful or concrete labor (more on this below).

Paul C:
>The position that I, David and I now see Roy Grieve take is that this sort
>of service is >productive because it enters into the real wage, it is thus
>necessary labour.

If it's necessary then it's concrete, not abstract - it produces use-values,
but what we are discussing here is the production of value, which is a
different matter. Unlike use-value, value has nothing to do with how the
product is consumed or by whom.

>What I am arguing is that for Marx the concept of productive labour in
>capitalist society >has nothing directly to do with economic growth,
>but rather with the role of labour in capital accumulation

For the purposes of defining productive labor, we should consider only the
case of simple reproduction, where value and surplus-value are produced
*without* growth or accumulation.

>In principle it does not matter for Marx's PUPL definition whether
>"material objects" >are produced or not.

As Jerry would say, let's worry about our own definition, not Marx's - we
have no choice anyway, because Marx's writings on this are confusing and, at
least on the surface, contradictory. My view is that it *does* matter
whether or not "material objects" are produced, since abstract labor must be
embodied in commodities that, regardless of their use-value, are
exchangeable with each other on the market, and therefore have an objective
existence between the moment of production and the moment of consumption. A
service, on the other hand, is a use-value (come to think of it, a stricter
definition would be: a service is the realization of use-value); it's not a
value, and therefore it's not exchangeable or commensurable with other
products; it has no objective existence separately from the act of


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