Re: (OPE-L) Re: Unproductive Labour and the Two Department Model

From: Phil Dunn (pscumnud@DIRCON.CO.UK)
Date: Sun Nov 23 2003 - 02:41:54 EST

>Hi again Phil. You wrote:
>>  This means that the shop is in Dept. I.
>The (liquor) shop doesn't produce means of production.
>Neither does it produce means of consumption (the whiskey).
>It _sells_ means of consumption.

Johnny Walker buys empty glass bottles from some bottle manufacturer.
The bottles are clearly means of production.  Each bottle is bought
for 50 cents, say and becomes constant capital for Johnny Walker.
Later 50 cents of embodied labour value is transferred to the product.

Johnny Walker buys retailing services from the shop at $2 a bottle.
These are accrued costs to Johnny Walker.  The money is paid after
the  revenue of $10 accrues, at the same time that the revenue is
realised in cash, in fact.  This means that the stock of constant
capital due to the retailing services is negative, since they are
paid for after their value is transferred to to product.

The liquor store does produce means of production.  It produces and
sells retailing services to Johnny Walker.  Johnny Walker sells means
of consumption, temporarily to the shop if there is merchant capital
involved, but ultimately to the consumer.   The shop buys at $10 a
bottles and sells at $10 bottle.  That's no way to make money. The
shop does not sells whiskey to the customer as its own product.  It
is merely an agent for Johnny Walker.

>The problem here might be with the simplicity of the
>reproduction schemes.  In practice, there are business firms
>which buy commodities from Dept. I or Dept. II producers
>and then re-sell those commodities to capitalists in Dept. I
>or Dept II or to workers or capitalists as consumers.
>Indeed, there are many thousands of firms which specialize
>in the *distribution* of commodities.
>There are also business firms which produce and sell
>*joint products* which are sold both to capitalists in Dept. I
>and II and to consumers (e.g. electricity).  This means that
>these firms are in both Dept. I _and_ Dept II. (It becomes
>even more complex when we consider modern trends for
>There are other firms that specialize in selling commodities
>to other firms *within the same department*.  E.g. machine
>supply manufacturers, who produce within Department I,
>sell commodities to other Dept I firms.  In this case, the
>'consumers' are other business firms in the same department.
>None of this complexity, though, determines whether the
>labour employed by these firms is productive or unproductive of
>surplus value since productive labour can be employed by
>capitalists in Dept. I or II (or capitalists which span both departments)
>regardless of whether the buyer is a capitalist from either department
>or a working-class or capitalist consumer.
>One has to recognize that there are limitations to the reproduction
>schemes.  They represent a simplified 'picture' of  economic relations
>in a similar way that the "Circular Flow of Economic Activity" represents
>a simplified representation of relations in standard (neo-neoclassical
>economic) thought.
>Precisely because the reproduction schemes represent a simplified
>picture, one has to go on to analyze the subject from the standpoint
>of capitalist production as a whole.  Because of that I question your
>"strategic decision not to read Volume III" (although, of course we
>all know that you've read Volume III!).  While it is true that the
>drafts for what became Volume III were mostly written after the
>drafts for what became Volume II, the Volume III drafts are able
>to inform our understanding of Marx's comprehension of the
>distinction between productive and unproductive labour precisely
>because the subject matter is capitalist production as a whole rather
>than only the process of capitalist circulation.

Really, I haven't read Volume III.  I've got a copy and have dipped
into it occasionally to check passages that are referred to.
Clearly, there is some valuable things there, as Simon Marginson's
paper shows.  But not much I suspect.

>>  The idea that the shop's
>>  revenue comes from the manufacturer's surplus value is rejected.
>>  Also rejection is the idea that the shop adds value to the
>>  merchandise.  The shop nevertheless adds value and has a productive
>>  M-C ... P... C'-M' circuit.  The bottle of whiskey never forms part
>>  of the shop's constant or commodity capital.
>Why does the shop labour have to add value?

The big picture for me is that if services such as retailing,
transport, finance, advertising etc. are treated as unproductive, and
they form an increasing proportion of the economy, labour in the
productive manufacturing fraction has to be exploited at an ever
increasing rate in order to account for undiminished non-wage income.
I do  not think this is for real.


>In solidarity, Jerry
>PS: > I definitely wobbled at this point.  It was late at night. <
>I definitely know the feeling. I've been there and done that ...
>many times.  Sometimes pre-coffee morning posts produce
>similar results.

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