Re: Productive and Unproductive Labour

Paul Cockshott (wpc@CS.STRATH.AC.UK)
Mon, 02 Feb 1998 12:24:15 +0000

Michael Williams wrote:

> > Paul Replies
> >
> > This relates not to the productivity of the labour producing
> > tills but to the department to which it belongs.
> >
> > I would say that plant and equipment used only for circulatory
> > purposes does not constitute constant capital. As such the labour
> > that produces it, whilst itself productive, is not constitute labour
> > expended in department I of the reproduction schemes, but is
> > instead in a department analogous to luxury goods.
> Where, of course, the labour is productive.

On second thoughts I think it questionable that labour engaged
in the production of luxuries is productive in the sense of
producing surplus value.

We know from Sraffa that the rate of profit is determined
by the technical productivity of the basic sector and the
division of the output of this sector between contending
social classes. Since luxury production is non-basic it
can not affect the rate of profit.

Since the rate of surplus value is determined by the ratio
between the working day and the necessary labour time, and
luxury production does not enter into necessary labour time
( i.e. not used to make wage goods ), then luxury production
can not contribute to the production of surplus value.

It therefore seems questionable whether workers engaged in
either the production of luxuries or the circulation analogues
of these, can contribute to the production of surplus value.

So neither the till user nor the till maker would be productive.