[OPE-L:3855] Re: productive and unproductive labour

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Wed, 18 Dec 1996 04:35:04 -0800 (PST)

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A response to Chai-on's [OPE-L:3852] (with brief comments at the end re
#3853 & #3854 -- to economize on the # of posts):

> 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.

You say that you don't disagree ... but the passage above very clearly
states that "their wages form part of the variable capital."

It is important to recall here that within the context of V2, Ch. 8,
capital can take the form of fixed or fluid capital *and* that fluid
capital is composed of both the remainder of constant capital (e.g. fuels,
raw materials, etc.) *and* variable capital (labour-power) that is
productively consumed within a single period of production.

> 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.

It is "like" an element of fixed capital. But, to say that it is like
fixed capital, in some respects, is very different from saying that it
*is* fixed capital.

> I do not agree. As quoted in my previous post, it is to be
> treated as a raw material.

Fixed capital and that part of fluid capital which are raw material,
etc. are examples of *dead labor*. They are both *products of living
labor*. On the other hand, labor itself, whether it is productive or
unproductive, is *living labor*. Since we both seem to agree that the
labor involved in maintenance when employed by capital is productive
labor, the money capital advanced for wages to these workers should count
as variable 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.

It *can* represent a deduction from workers wages when workers are forced
into paying for health care costs themselves.

> 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
> capital.

What you seem to be saying is that for it to count as part of variable
capital, rather than represent a deduction from surplus-value, benefits
must be paid out directly to workers themselves in money form. Yet, from
my perspective (and from the perspective of capitalists for whom the cost
of employing labour-power also must include, where applicable, the
monetary cost of benefits for workers _and_ from the perspective of
laborers and trade unions for whom these benefits represent a form of
wages), this has _become_ a part of wages. It is a benefit that workers
have struggled long and hard for and where these monetary benefits are
provided for productive laborers they should be included within v. Would
you say that money for vacations, which are by their very nature
irregular, paid for productive laborers should count as an addition to v
or a subtraction from s?

> 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
> surplus-value.

To the extent that the state picks up these costs, you would be correct.
Yet, firms still normally purchase insurance for these kinds of
catastrophic events. In such cases, I would say that it should still count
as a deduction from s.

Re: #3853:

You asked again about the meaning of the quote "it is not an agent of
production but rather raw material." This quote, from p. 253, concerned
the *labor* performed on the cleaning of machinery. I will admit that it
tends to support your interpretation, but my sense is that Marx means that
it is -- from the perspective of the capitalist -- _like_ raw materials.
Yet, how can living labor *be* a raw material?

Re: #3854:

> In Jerry's case, the surplus-value estracted from the repairer's labor
> is taken to be $9 multiplied by the rate of exploitation.

I don't know where you got that idea from. I didn't say that and, in fact,
haven't entered into a numerical discussion with you yet on this thread.

In solidarity, Jerry

PS: So... Chai-on: what topics, whether related to productive or
unproductive labor or not, would you like to see us discuss next? Any