[OPE-L:3852] Re: productive and unproductive labour

Chai-on Le (conlee@chonnam.chonnam.ac.kr)
Tue, 17 Dec 1996 19:16:52 -0800 (PST)

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Sorry, I missed Jerry's [3843] in my last reply.

Jerry cited in [3843]
>"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).

Yes, I do not disagree. It can be classified as fluid capital but not as a
variable capital. Marx, too said.

"This capital spent on repairs in the strict sense forms in many respects a
capital of a peculiar kind: it cannot be properly classed either as fluid or
as fixed capital, but, since it is part of the running expenses, it tends
more towards the first of the two forms." [ibid, p 255]

In the sense of the running expenses, it is a fluid capital. But, in the
mode of the compensation or turnover, it is like a fixed capital. If you say
it is a fluid capital, I do not disagree. But, if you say it is a fluid,
variable capital, I do not agree. As quoted in my previous post, it is to be
treated as a raw material.

>Turning to the separate question of insurance, also raised in this thread,
>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.

Only when the workers are slave laborers, it can be treated in the same way
as the repair of the fixed capital. Because the workers are of free
personality, the health care cost is to be paid by the workers from the
deduction of their living expenses. Of course, the health benefits for
workers paid by capitalists is a deduction from the surplus-value. If the
health benefit is paid in part in the form of salary, it forms a variable

In principle, we cannot say the health cost is a variable capital or a part
of surplus value, etc. Since it is a social overhead cost, the consequence
depends on whether it is sociallized or not. Fire, earthquake, etc. were in
the past entirely a deduction from the surplus-value. Now that it is
sociallized as a normal insurance cost, it is no more the deduction from the

In solidarity, Chai-on
Faculty of Economics,
Chonnam National University,
Kwang-Ju, 500-757,
S Korea
Tel +82-62-520 7329
Fax +82-62-529 0446
E-m: conlee@chonnam.chonnam.ac.kr