[OPE-L:3839] Re: productive and unproductive labour

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 16 Dec 1996 12:25:03 -0800 (PST)

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Chai-on wrote in [OPE-L:3833]:

> If it is added on to the v, the health cost must be of a regular character.
> Yes, when the health insurance cost is regularly deducted from the salary.
> Then it must be a part of the v. Occasional, irregular payment from the
> wagee arnings is to be seen like a loss for the workers (as a misfortune),
> which cannot be allotted as a normal cost of labor-reproduction.

Firstly, as a factual matter, the cost of health benefits provided to
wage-earners are paid out normally to health insurance companies on a
regular basis. In a similar way, corporate "donations" for workers'
pension plans are paid out regularly.

Secondly, I think this idea that payments have to be of a "regular
character" is very restricting. Wouldn't payments to workers for
vacations (another benefit) be counted as being part of variable capital?

Thirdly, health ailments are *more* than just a misfortune to the
individual workers. Health problems are ... well, an aspect of life
itself. But, to the extent that capitalists pay for health insurance, it
reflects the fact that, over time, workers have been successful in
negotiating for non-wage benefits that then become part of the cost of
employing labor. That is, these benefits collectively represent an
increase in the moral and cultural component of the wage.

[Also, I should note, that in many branches of production in advanced
capitalist economies today the cost of benefits is frequently about the
same as or slightly greater than the cost of wage payments. Whether we
then include these non-wage benefits as component parts of variable
capital would have a big effect on the measurement of v].

Fourthly, what matters to capital, is the *total* cost of employing
wage-labor. And, clearly, contractual benefits can represent a major cost
in terms of the money capital that is required to employ labor.

> The repairing costs are a part of the maintenance cost of the production
> facilities, which goes into a part of Fixed capital. The fixed capital,
> whether it is paid directly by labor or not, cannot form the category of
> v+s. Direct labors performed on the labor-object (not on the instrument of
> that work) can make the v+s category.

How can living labour be counted as fixed capital?

I disagree with the distinction that you suggest above that labor must be
concretely performed on the "labor-object" for that labor to be understood
as productive labor. This convention would exclude the wages paid out to
skilled workers engaged in the maintenance and repair of constant fixed

I wonder: where did you get this idea? I ask since it is my understanding
that Marx thought this type of labor was productive labor.

In solidarity, Jerry