[OPE-L:3843] Re: productive and unproductive labour

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 16 Dec 1996 20:53:05 -0800 (PST)

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Some further comments on Chai-on's [OPE-L:3833]:

> 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.

Marx discusses this subject in Chapter 8, Section 2 of VII ("Components,
Replacement, Repairs and Accumulation of the Fixed Capital").

For instance:

"But fixed capital also requires positive outlays of labour if it is to be
kept in good condition. [...] The capital spent on this labour is part of
the fluid capital, even though it does not properly enter the actual labor
process to which the product owes its origin. [...] The capital spent on
it belongs to that part of fluid capital that has to cover the general
overheads, and is distributed over the value of the product according to
an average annual calculation. [...] But in various branches of production
where the machinery has to be removed for cleaning, and the cleaning can
therefore not take place on the quiet, as with locomotives, for example,
this maintenance work counts as running costs, i.e. as an element of fluid
capital [...]" (Penguin edition, pp. 252-253).

An even clearer passage relating to this issue is:

"The extra capital that is replaced in this way is part of the fluid
capital, even though the expenditure is of an irregular kind. Since it is
of the utmost importance to treat every ailment of the machinery
immediately, every large factory has, in addition to the factory workers
proper, a staff of engineer, carpenter, mechanic, fitter, etc. Their wages
form part of the variable capital, and the value of their labour is
distributed over the product" (Ibid, p. 255).


Turning to the separate question of insurance, also raised in this thread,
Marx writes:

"Something that is quite different both from the replacement of wear and
tear and maintenance is *insurance*, which relates to destruction by way
of extraordinary natural events, fire, flood, etc. This must be made good
out of surplus-value and forms a deduction from it" (Ibid, p. 256).

Yet, *health insurance* is of a quite different order than insurance for
natural calamities. Most significantly, it is a consequence of the
struggle between capital and labor for higher wages and benefits. It
represents an addition to the cost of employing wage-labour and, IMHO,
health care costs for productive laborers should be counted as part of
variable capital rather than as a deduction from surplus value.

Of course, health benefits for workers paid by capitalists only became
commonplace in the 20th Century and I don't believe Marx discussed this
question directly. We, therefore, have to use our own brains to sort this
issue out.

In solidarity, Jerry