Re: Productive and Unproductive Labour

Allin Cottrell (
Mon, 2 Feb 1998 08:10:25 -0500 (EST)

On Mon, 2 Feb 1998, Paul Cockshott wrote:

> 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.

A bold thought, but problematic. Isn't there a micro/macro
confusion here? A worker producing nothing but luxuries for the
capitalists is not performing a share of society's necessary
labour directly. But other workers elsewhere are producing the
means of subsistence for the "luxury workers" as well as for
themselves; if the product of the latter is consumed only by
workers, then in a sense they are performing _nothing but_
necessary labour. I.e., some workers perform nothing but
necessary labour, and some perform nothing but surplus labour
(the luxury makers). The economy-wide rate of surplus value
then depends in part on the relative weight of these sets of
workers in the social division of labour.

Allin Cottrell
Department of Economics
Wake Forest University, NC