Re: [OPE] Services (->Paula)

From: Dave Zachariah <>
Date: Wed Jan 14 2009 - 17:51:52 EST

Ian Wright wrote:
> Obviously one can further classify "material effects" into those that
> are transient (e.g., transport labor that moves a ton of coal from A
> to B) and those that are more permanent (e.g., shoemaking labor that
> produces shoes). The former tend to be thought of as services, the
> latter tends to be thought of as goods.
> But I do not understand why this entails that labor that produces
> services is somehow "unproductive". I have to ask: what is motivating
> this distinction?
> It seems to me that, Paula, that your "materialism" is fixated on that
> small class of things that are visible to the human eye and can be
> stored.

I think Paula tried to explain the motivation for this view of services:
> 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.

However, I think the conclusions are mistaken because the starting point
is wrong: "value is a material relation between people that takes the
form of a social relation between *things*". This has it backwards in my
view; it is to take Marx's description of the mystifying *form of
appearance* of socially produced use-values under capitalism and make it
foundational for the rest of the economic analysis. He writes for instance:

    A commodity is therefore a mysterious thing, simply because in it
    the social character of menís labour *appears to them* as an
    objective character stamped upon the product of that labour; because
    the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour
    is *presented to them* as a social relation, existing not between
    themselves, but between the products of their labour. [Emphasis added.]

Marx, following classical political economy, uncovers the basis of value
as social labour. Certainly, socially produced services require social
labour. Moreover, the very notion of 'social labour' suggests that
labour can be treated in the abstract. So I don't think Paula's
qualifications hold up.

//Dave Z
ope mailing list
Received on Wed Jan 14 17:53:45 2009

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