[OPE] Services (->Paula)

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Mon Jan 05 2009 - 03:52:59 EST

In /Capital/ Vol. 1, chapter 9 section 4, Marx defines the capitalist
surplus product exclusively in terms of the proportion between the value
of necessary and surplus labour; at any one time, this surplus product
is lodged simultaneously in money, products and labor-services, and
therefore not simply a "physical" surplus product (a stockpile of
additional goods). The concept expresses an abstract proportion which is
purely socially defined (a social relationship or power relationship) as
the claim on the surplus labour of others by virtue of the ownership of
property, mediated by trade.

Similarly, Marx's concept of productive labour is purely socially
defined and has nothing to do directly with the particular nature of the
products produced, or with how essential the given labour is for the
economic reproduction process. It has only indirectly to do with this,
insofar as particular kinds of production intrinsically do, or do not,
easily permit themselves to be transformed into means for capital

It logically follows from Marx's interpretation of the fulcrum of
capitalist competition in terms of a battle over the distribution of
new surplus value, that there can be no "neutral" concept of
capitalistically productive labour, since (1) what is "productive" from
the point of view of a particular capitalist may not be from the point
of view of capitalist society as a whole, and vice versa; an activity
which adds net new value to the capital of an individual capitalist may
be only a redistribution of value from a macro point of view; and since
(2) the meaning of productivity cannot even be specified without
implying a particular class interest in production.

In turn the logical corrollary of this is that there exists no specific
"mechanism" in the capitalist economy which ensures that labour is
allocated, at least increasingly, in a way which maximizes or optimizes
the expanded reproduction of production capital. That indeed is part of
Marx's critique. Adam Smith and his entourage of Marxist enthusiasts
constantly confuse the material conditions for the production of output
and the social conditions for the accumulation of capital, but this
yields only game-theoretical verities such as that if you want to give
two people five marbles each, you must have ten marbles to start off
with, and you cannot distribute more marbles, unless more marbles are
actually produced.

The essence of Adam Smith real argument (in contrast to Marxist
interpretations of it) is well illustrated by his comment on government
officials, which he regards a unproductive on the ground that:

"Their service, how honourable, how useful, or how necessary soever,
produces nothing for which an equal quantity of service can afterwards
be procured. The protection, security, and defence of the commonwealth,
the effect of their labour this year, will not purchase its protection,
security, and defence for the year to come." (The Wealth of Nations,
Cannan ed., p. 314).

This is essentially an argument about the conditions for economic
growth, the fact that "the protection, security, and defence of the
commonwealth" is not a vendible commodity in a bilateral trading circuit
- it is funded, according to Smith, not as intermediate expenditure
which makes a net addition to wealth but final expenditure which
transfers and consumes wealth. But obviously if defence expenditure
creates more security for capitalist property, this also promotes
growth; or if the use of lawyers mean that contractual obligations are
met, this also benefits economic growth.

The neo-Smithian Marxists thus try to portray economic growth as being
essentially a technical-material process, but not a social process.


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Received on Mon Jan 5 03:54:50 2009

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