[OPE] No rise is s/v? Kliman's empirical work on the falling rate of profit

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Fri Oct 23 2009 - 02:43:50 EDT

I'm not really sure that if you compute the average corporate rate of profit
on physical capital employed, that including or excluding a portion of
employee compensation as "unproductive" is going to make a lot of difference
to the trend result.

The real point is not so much that Dr Kliman is inconsistent with Marx in
this respect, but that Marx never reached a definite and ambiguous
conclusion about the meaning of unproductive labour, except to say that the
concept refers both the the "useful effect" of the labour, and the social
relations of production within which it is performed.

Marx admits the possibility that the same labour which is capitalistically
unproductive under one set of social relations is capitalistically
productive under another set of social relations, presuming that its useful
effect is of a type that it can form commodities containing surplus value,
in other words that the labour can be subsumed under the commodity form. In
the end, Marx argues that capitalist development makes more and more labour
productive and creates the "collective worker" (Gesamtarbeiter), a
combination of workers who all perform productive tasks, including
managerial labour.

Presumably one reason why Marx did not reach a definitive conclusion about
productive labour is because he realized by the time he wrote Capital Vol. 1
for publication that the capitalist division of labour itself was subject to
change, such that, with technological change, activities which were
previously an unproductive cost, subsequently became capitalistically
productive labour. Another reason could be that the conflict between what is
productive from the point of view of individual capitals and what is
productive from the point of view of capital as a whole is something which
is never finally resolved.

One could therefore, in principle, claim that (1) all corporate labour is
nowadays productive labour to the extent that all of it is supplied on a
capitalist basis, and that (2) there are some indications that Marx would
have argued the same, as a logical conclusion of capitalist development
itself. I am not saying that this interpretation is necessarily correct, but
that given the unresolved ambiguity in Marx, there is at least some textual
basis for arguing it.

At one point in Cap. Vol. 2, Marx argues:

"If we have a function which, although in and for itself unproductive, is
nevertheless a necessary moment of [economic] reproduction, then when this
is transformed, through a division of labour, from the secondary activity of
many into the exclusive activity of a few, into their special business, this
does not change the character of the function itself" (Capital Vol. 2,
Penguin ed., p. 209).

In this case, unproductive labour is defined according to its function (its
useful effect) in economic reproduction (more like Adam Smith's idea) but in
that case the question arises why "the exclusive activity of a few" would
not be productive labour, if it creates capitalistically produced
commodities. To sustain its unproductiveness one would then have to argue
that the useful effect of the labour is intrinsically unproductive.

Marx did realise there was a problem
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1861/economic/ch33.htm but did
not solve it theoretically and therefore claims of consistency or
inconsistency in this regard are inapposite.


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Received on Fri Oct 23 02:45:39 2009

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