[OPE-L:5690] Re: productive and unproductive labor

Claus Germer (cmgermer@SOCIAIS.UFPR.BR)
Fri, 7 Nov 1997 15:42:51 -0200

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I agree with Fred's interpretation of Marx's position about the issue in
his post from nov 3 and Allin's on nov 7. But Allin adds an important

> Personally, I'm a little uneasy about this (i.e. Marx's
> second distinction). The transfer of property titles is,
> IMO, at least in part, a socially specific form of a
> trans-historical necessity, namely the recording of the
> disposition of the product among various users -- an
> informational function that is a necessity (in some form or
> other) under any mode of production. I'm not quite as sure
> as Fred that Marx is making a distinction that does not
> depend on a presumed contrast with socialism (where the
> transfer of property titles would not be required); nor am I
> quite sure that the presumed contrast is correct.

I think this is the point Marx is concerned with in subtitle 2.
Book-keeping, of ch. VI. The costs of circulation, in C,II. Labour in
book-keeping is also unproductive, but there is a difference between this
one and labour and other costs expended in selling and buying. Marx says:

"Book-keeping, as the control and ideal synthesis of the process, becomes
the more necessary the more the process assumes a social scale and loses
its purely individual character. It is therefore more necessary in
capitalist production than in scattered production of handicraft and pesant
economy, more necessary in collective production than in capitalist
production. But the costs of book-keeping drop as production becomes
concentrated and book-keeping becomes social".

This seems to mean - and follows from his reasoning in previous paragraphs
-, as I understand it, that book-keeping, as a part of the proceedings
necessary to distribute the social product among its uses, will not be
extinguished in socialism, like buying and sellling, but it still is a
labour time deducted from the time *available for productive consumption*,
and would be in this sense *unproductive labour* (although not in the sense
of not producing surplus-value as in capitalism).

One additional point about strict circulation costs: although labour
involved in it is unproductive, innovations that reduce the time of trading
by increasing 'productivity' of labour in buying and selling, will raise
the production of surplus-value by reducing the turnover time of capital,
thus increasing the number of turnovers in a year.


Claus Germer
Departamento de Economia
Universidade Federal do Paraná
Rua Dr. Faivre, 405 - 3º andar
80060-140 Curitiba - Paraná