[OPE-L:7564] [OPE-L:1109] Re: Re: Unproductive labour income and Marxian social accounts

Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Fri, 3 Sep 1999 16:33:37 -0400 (EDT)

On Thu, 2 Sep 1999, Jurriaan Bendien wrote:

> Date: Thu, 02 Sep 1999 02:24:00 +0200
> From: Jurriaan Bendien <djjb99@worldonline.nl>
> Reply-To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
> To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
> Subject: [OPE-L:1096] Re: Unproductive labour income and Marxian social accounts
> I have been studying the construction of Marxian social accounts for some
> time now. The book by Anwar Shaikh and Ahmet Tonak gives some useful
> guidelines for this. However I am still not clear in my mind about the
> treatment of unproductive labour in accounting for the value product of a
> country such as Holland. And this is not only because Shaikh would have us
> believe that for accounting purposes e.g. primary school teachers are
> commodity producers.
> Shaikh and other authors refine the aggregate of "new value added" in
> production, and then deduct the income of productive labour as variable
> capital, in order to obtain the total new surplus-value created in the
> year. But, this "aggregate surplus-value" they have isolated, contains
> also the wages of unproductive labour. Thus, it appears that the wages of
> unproductive labour are "part of", or "paid out" of, the surplus-value
> currently produced by productive labour.
> But
> (1) The wages of unproductive labour should I think not be treated as part
> of surplus-value in the account. If they are worker's wages, they are not
> surplus value. Further, unproductive labour itself does not add any value
> to the social product. Yet, it is part of the cost structure of
> production, which must be paid for.


We had a long discussion of this question on OPEL in the spring of '98,
right? I argued then, and continue to argue that, for Marx, the wages of
unproductive labor are a part of surplus-value, i.e. are a "deduction from
surplus-value". I myself think that Marx is very clear on this point.
A part of the surplus-value produced by productive labor has to go to pay
for the wages of unproductive labor. The fact that this money is workers'
wages does not mean that it cannot come from surplus-value. Another part
of surplus-value is taxed by the government and is used to pay the wages
of government workers (another kind of unproductive labor). But these
wages ultimately come from surplus-value.

> The related problem is, can value only be an attribute of "material wealth",
> in the sense of physical objects which:
> - are products of labour existing externally and independently of human beings
> - are subject to private property rights which are transferable
> - can be exchanged (traded)
> Or, can value also be for instance an attribute of types of service labour
> itself, where the act of production and the act of consumption coincide,
> and where no independently existing product results ?
> Marx, somewhat like Adam Smith, seems mostly to take (what I believe Prof.
> David Laibman calls) a "physicalist" interpretation of the things which can be
> commodities, but if this interpretation is adopted, are we then making a
> mistake in analysing social relations in modern capitalism ? Prof. Mandel
> argued likewise for a "physicalist" interpretation of things which can be
> commodities, claiming that the historical tendency of capitalism is to
> substitute physical ("vendible") commodities for labour services. I do not
> know if this is correct either. It would mean that the expansion of the
> services sector after world war two was only a phase of capitalist
> development, and that services (such as education) will increasingly be
> marketed as products bought in a shop.

Again, I think Marx is clear on this point (although maybe not as clear as
on the previous question). As Allin pointed out, Marx clearly argued that
the production of services (such as a song) can be productive labor, as
long as it is produced for capitalists.

In my view, this is not contradicted by circulation labor being
unproductive labor. Circulation labor is unproductive because its
function is to carry out the exchange of products, and Marx assumed that
no additional value is created through exchange. One can call exchange a
"service" and then this may look like a contradiction. But this obscures
the distinction between production and circulation. Singing a song is an
act of production. Selling tickets at the door is not.