[OPE-L:3828] Re: productive and unproductive labour (continued)

Chai-on Le (conlee@chonnam.chonnam.ac.kr)
Sat, 14 Dec 1996 20:16:03 -0800 (PST)

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(sorry, I repeatedly sent back Jerry's post by mistake)

In regard to the following Jerry's question, I should like to add one more
question here.

Jerry wrote,
>Second: let's consider the costs and benefits of expenditures on some
>forms of unproductive labour for capitalist firms. For instance,
>advertising and marketing expenditures (which typically represent a very
>significant cost indeed for firms that, especially, produce means of
>consumption). These costs are essential ones in the sense that they are
>required for firms to compete effectively, especially in branches of
>production that are dominated by oligopolies and where there is a
>significant degree of product differentiation. While these expenditures
>represent a deduction from surplus value in one sense, they also allow the
>firm (if successful in its product differentiation strategy) to increase
>profits through a redistribution of surplus value (at the expense of other
>firms within the same branch of production). Yet, these expenditures might
>under certain circumstances increase profit via another route. Suppose as
>a result of product differentiation, these firms are able to mark-up the
>price of the commodities that they sell significantly above their value
>(if you want examples, think of sneakers and soda). In these cases,
>wouldn't the increase in profitability also result from a transfer of
>value from the working class as consumers to these capitalists? That is,
>couldn't it result in a depression of real wages due to the increased cost
>of the commodities that wages are exchanged against?


There seems no disagreement in regard to the benefits of unproductive labor.
As for its costs, however, there is little agreement. From whom and from
where is the wagepayment for the unproductive labors levyed? IMO, there
should be four distinct kinds of unproductive labor as far as the payment is
(1) Payment from individual consumption funds: family doctors whose direct
benefits accrue to the individuals (in an exclusive manner). But national
health service has categorized this as a social insurance cost. It is paid
in part by the society and in part by the immediate benefiters.
(2) Payment from constant capital funds: repairing and maintenance cost (a
normal production cost). Repairing labor is a necessary, normal cost in some
aspect but cannot produce surplus value, and so its wage payment is
categorized as a material, constant capital.
(3) Payment from surplus-values: repairing and maintenance cost (abnormal
production cost, fire, earthquake, robbery, etc. (NB: contemporary
capitalism has developed a mechanism to transform this into a normal
production cost, since they categorizes it as an INSURANCE COST and pass it
onto the consumers).
(4) Payment from unspecific individual incomes: pure circulation cost,
nobody is willing to pay this but it is paid anyway. Like indirect taxes, it
is paid by nobody but it is paid finally. Direct taxes are paid from
individual incomes, but indirect taxes are paid from unspecific (natural
and/or juristic) individual incomes (even Russian people might have paid in
part the indirect taxes for the products US workers consumed). Commercial
labors are the typical case of this category. Upto the amount of this cost,
firms are able to mark-up the price of the commodities they sell, which
creates a deviation between real value and nominal value in the whole
society. (for this explanation, we posit the measure of value or the unit of
labor account is variant).

In conclusion, contemporary capitalism has converged the above four
categories only to two ones, (2) and (4).

I am looking forward to your opinion.

In solidarity,


Sorry again for the missent posts.