Re: [OPE] Services (->Paula)

From: Paula <>
Date: Thu Jan 15 2009 - 04:42:01 EST

A few replies to the arguments so far...

Jerry asked:
>Teaching is also a service. You don't think that teachers who are wage-
>workers and employed by capitalists for profit are productive laborers?
It depends on whether or not they produce a commodity. Perhaps sometimes they do produce the commodity labor-power (I'm not sure about this yet); private schools, however, aren't generally for the working class.
>The answer is that advertising labor does not *create* surplus value;
>its use-value to capitalists rather concerns its importance in *realizing*
Fine, but as it stands this statement is a tautology; why doesn't advertising labor create surplus value, seeing that it does create a material effect?
>But, value production _incorporates_ necessity: SNLT. So, when you say
>that "if it's necessary, then it's concrete, not abstract", then I disagree.

'Socially necessary' in SNLT refers to 'time', not to 'labor'; the necessity is in the quantity of production time, not in the quality of the labor; but if we say that a certain labor is necessary, we are referring to its quality, ie its concrete use-value.

>Then, make a case - independently of what Marx write - for why abstract
>labor must be "embodied" in commodities.
The case follows from social wealth being created in the form of objects in every human society, including capitalism. We don't count all 'material effects' and all 'material activities' as produced wealth; we only count products of human material activity that take an independent objective form. A dance, for example, is a material activity with material effects, but does not constitute wealth, since it's not separable from the dancer and/or the spectator; while the dancer's shoes and attire do constitute wealth. (One may argue that a dance constitutes some other kind of wealth, eg cultural or spiritual wealth; but we are here only concerned with economic wealth). Value is the form this material wealth takes under capitalism - when it is produced for profit, not for its use-value - and abstract labor is the labor that produces it.
>I think you also need to consider the meaning more of "objective existence".
[clip] - the barberer, the
>barber's tools, and the haircut itself all have an objective existence.

Only the tools have an *independent* objective existence, therefore only the tools are objects. A barber is not an object, a haircut is not an object - though of course they have an objective existence, as has everything that exists (every OPE list member has an objective existence, but that doesn't turn any of us into objects).

Ian, on the same theme:
>The intent of my examples was to show that many services do produce
>"material effects" that are independent objects. In the case of a
> barber, the haircut;

The haircut doesn't exist independently from the customer; a haircut is therefore not an object, but a part of a subject; and so it cannot be exchanged.

>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.

That's the bourgeois classification, which distinguishes only between types of use-value. In terms of value, I believe there's no difference here, since coal and shoes are both commodities, ie objects produced for exchange (under normal capitalist conditions). The transportation of coal is just one part of its production process.

>Thus, a service has value and is as
>commensurable and exchangeable as the objects, which is expressed in the
>fact that they have prices, ie, they are exchangeable for money, the
>universal commodity.

You may demand a price for your service and yet create no value. The services of a financial adviser, for example, have a price; they are exchangeable for money; but they do not create value. A service is not commensurable with anything else, because it is a utility (a use-value) and as such it always has unique qualities. The service provided by an apple is not commensurable by the service provided by a pear - apples and pears are only commensurable as values, that is, as material objects abstracted from the services they provide. But in the case of so-called service labor, once we abstract from the service there's no material object left.

>I'm reminded of Foucault's
>opener to "The Order of Things" where he quotes from a Chinese
>encyclopedia regarding the classification of animals

The logic of this quote (was it originally from Borges?) is that all classification is absurd, and so perhaps we shouldn't bother to distinguish between productive and unproductive capital; between price and value; or between subject and object. Economic science would then be very easy, but would it tell us anything interesting?


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