Paul Cockshott wrote:
> May I suggest that a possible definition of which labour really does add
> to wealth is provided indirectly by Sraffa.
> Following his insights one could define materially productive labour as
> that labour which enters directly or indirectly into all other products, or
> whose direct or indirect product is necessary to the reproduction of the
> productive labour force.
> This definition is recursive but has fixed points and terminates.
> The consequence of it is to exclude classically unproductive activities
> like the armed forces, servants of the rich, and advertising. But it would
> include primary eduction, health care for the working population etc.
> It would exclude health care for those past working age and education for
> skills which were themselves unproductive ( officer training schools for
> It does not depend upon subjective moral assesments.
> It is what is relevant when one is concerned with maximising the surplus
> product of society as a whole - as for example moving onto a von Neumann
> growth path, or maximising weapons production in wartime.
This should solve most of the problem. I do think that both Marx and Adam Smith
wanted to define productive labor as the labor that could potentially add to
capital. Adam Smith went very close to defining all labor that produces luxury
goods as unproductive, but stopped short of declaring them as such because old
luxury goods slowly gets passed on to the working class--though Marx on this
score is not as clear. Both of them felt that there was a practical problem in
demarcating such labor as unproductive. Sraffa, I think, provides a theoretical
solution to this practical problem. Cheers, ajit sinha
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