Re: Reply to Michael on productive labour & services

Ian Hunt (
Wed, 21 Jan 1998 09:44:31 +1030 (CDT)

Juriaan writes " The point being made is that some labour activities by
nature, or contingently, do not lend themselves to being transformed into
capitalist commodity production, i.e. be fully subsumed by the specifically
capitalist mode of production. And I would would place services such as
hairdressing, cleaning, teaching, prostitution, security guards etc. in
that category." While not disputing that some activities are inherently
difficult to bring under the capitalist mode of production, I find these
examples puzzling. There is something of a problem in bringing teaching
(prostitution is a better case) "fully under the capitalist mode of
production", if we take something to be fully under that mode of production
when we have not only the "formal" but also the "real subsumption" of
labour power under capital. However, I know of fully capitalist security
guard firms which save labour by installing monitoring technologies etc.
And there are ways of economising on the labour of teachers, eg. with
video-lectures. Prostitution, of course, by its very nature resists such
But, in any case, the formal subsumption of labour under capital is still
capitalism. And in Theories of Surplus Value, Marx cites teaching as one
example where the same labour process can be both "productive" and
"unproductive", so that his concept of "unproductive" labour clearly
applies to teaching, and to prositution when this organized in legal
brothels, as in eg, Amsterdam.

Dr Ian Hunt,
Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
Philosophy Dept,
Flinders University of SA,
Humanities Building,
Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2556