Re: (OPE-L) Re: Dynamic value and natural price

From: Ian Wright (ian_paul_wright@HOTMAIL.COM)
Date: Fri Nov 07 2003 - 18:01:29 EST

Hello Jerry,

>The distinction between productive and unproductive labor is not based
>on which individuals (and segments of classes) perform "useful" labor.
>If capitalists are productive of surplus value then the whole theory of
>surplus value collapses, imo, since if everyone is exploited then no one
>is exploited.

I must admit I do not understand the distinction between productive
and unproductive labour. I tend to think that if someone is willing to
pay for some labour then it is productive in the economic sense,
irrespective of whether that labour is productive from some moral or
utilitarian point of view.

But I am looking at it this way: in principle a capitalist can create value
their labours, just like anyone else. But surplus value is precisely value
workers do not receive -- but capitalists do. So although some
capitalists may create value they are not exploited because they
receive any surplus value created in the form of profits.

Here's a concrete example: a firm of 10 employees and 1 capitalist
owner. The owner works a normal day just like the workers, and
performs similar tasks. The product contains the labour of 11 workers.
But the revenue from that product isn't split into 11 roughly equal shares.
There are 10 wage incomes and 1 profit income. Assuming profits
are made, the capitalist owner gets it, and is therefore not exploited.

What's wrong with this?

A lot of rubbish is written to hide or justify the fact that capitalist
owners receive profit income from firm revenues solely in virtue of
their ownership relation to the means of production. I agree that
this often takes the form of an argument that the labour of capitalists
is somehow special and very valuable, e.g. "entrepreneurial ability".
But I think it would be wrong to deny that individuals who hold
capitalist property cannot create value. I do not see a causal
connection between holding capitalist property and not in
principle being able to perform labour that is embodied in a product that
gets sold in the market. Of course, I'd guess that most big capitalists
do diddley-squat, but that's not the point here.


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