Re: [OPE] "Parasitism"

From: Paula <>
Date: Fri Feb 13 2009 - 17:57:04 EST

Dave wrote:

> For instance, Marx wrote that the 'form of appearance' of wealth in
> capitalist societies is "an immense accumulation of commodities". Are we
> to conclude from this that wealth is a collection of commodities? That
> would be to misread the meaning of 'form of appearance'.

The first sentence in my copy of Capital reads: 'The wealth of those
societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents
itself as "an immense accumulation of commodities," its unit being a single
commodity.' I interpret this to mean that under capitalism social wealth
appears not in the form of objects that only have use-value, but of objects
that also have value, ie, commodities. This appearance is quite correct, so
I can't understand your objection.

> It is not that Marx was not interested in the category of 'value'; but his
> discussion on productive labour revolves around the creation of
> 'surplus-value' proper. As far as I can recall he never mentions 'value'
> as such there.

Where is 'there'? But this issue is actually very simple. Let's take a
unit, a single commodity - a bicycle. Let's assume its value is $90, of
which $30 is surplus-value, $30 is the value of labor-power, and $30 is the
transferred value of materials and machinery. The whole $90 worth of value,
and not only the $30 worth of surplus-value, originates in abstract labor.
The workers who made the bike were productive 100% of the time they spent on
its production, and not only the portion during which they produced the
surplus-value (50% of the time). It makes no difference here who then buys
the bike - whether a worker, a capitalist, or a member of the

By contrast, the shop worker who sells the bike produces no value at all,
since his labor, while useful and social (he meets customers face to face,
smiles at them and makes them feel important, gives them advice, helps his
employer make money, etc) is not embodied in bikes or in any other

What I call productive labor is therefore the same as abstract labor, labor
that is 'productive' of value - as opposed to concrete labor, which is only
'productive' of use-value. I believe this distinction helps us understand
the consequences of living in an age of service capitalism, including
consequences in terms of capital accumulation (which seems to be your main
concern) since obviously labor that does not produce value does not produce
surplus-value, either.


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Received on Fri Feb 13 18:02:04 2009

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