Re: [OPE] Services

From: paul bullock <>
Date: Wed Jan 07 2009 - 11:10:15 EST

To Paul C,

In fact since this H bomb operation was run by the state to produce items
for its own immediate consumption ( it 'enjoys' the fear that is created by
their availability), then the items were not sold on the market, the payment
was made out of revenue directly and so indeed the workers were not being
productive for capital. The state was not aiming to make a profit.

Now as soon as these workers produce an item to be sold on the market by
Jacobs, the item takes on the commodity form, and must be realised against
the money used in the market before they can be used. The workers are
clearly involved in the process of the accumulation of capital. The nature
of the item involved is irrelevant, capitalism can and does produce all
sorts of useless and frightening trash.

I can see that the discussion is struggling to resolve 100% two apparently
contradictory ideas. One a sort of technical view that somehow the product
has to perform some positive role in the reproduction of society,....and the
other view that a specific social relation has to be incontrol. There is
an attempt to resolve the two by denying that the labour involved in
producing 'useless products' (if I can use the term here) is capitalisticaly
productive. However we already recognise that capitalist consumption (
unproductive consumption) absorbs these 'useless' products of productive
labour, from trinkets to luxury yachts, so I don't quite see your
difficulty. The weapons are the weapons of the capitalist class, made by
them, for their use, in their own defence: not for open sale on the market.
They use up part of society's surplus value as revenue (not as capital) to
buy them. So what? How is this 'apologetic'? Does the fact that a good is
consumed by the capitalists somehow prevent criticism of that class? Its
motives? Or the consequences of its actions?

Your example forgets that the whole purpose of privatisation was to expand
the accumulation process, and that started with a sharp attack on workers so
that prices could remain the same but that the element of profit in the
price was raised. Increased tax was certainly not going to be the
solution!!! Rather an increase in the absolute rate of surplus valued was
typical, followed by continued attempts to raise productivity all round.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Cockshott" <>
To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" <>
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 12:44 PM
Subject: RE: [OPE] Services (->Paula)[MESSAGE NOT SCANNED]

Let us consider a particular case, the Aldermaston H bomb factory. This was
recently privatised to
Jacobs Engineeringf.

I assume that you would agree that whilst it was a state factory it was
Do you content that by handing its running over to a private company this
now became productive!

If so, it seems to me that your definition of what is productive leads to
absurd conclusions, ones
that turn critical political economy into apologetics.

Assume for now that there is no change to the technology of H bomb design.
If the cost of an H bomb was once 20Million, of which 10 million went on
plutonium, tritium etc,
5 million on wear and tair of equipment, 1 million on energy and 4
million on wages.

Previously the Navy got the H bomb for 20 million. Suppose Jacobs now sells
it to the Navy
for 25 million.
Well has any new value been created?
No, the labour required to make the bomb has not changed, but formerly the
state got it for
the labour power cost of manufacture, now it gets it for the labour power +
surplus labour.
Nothing more has been produced, the additional cost must be met by higher
taxes. Since
such taxes are a deduction from the total social surplus value, the gain of
Jacobs is at the
cost of the capitalist class as whole.

Paul Cockshott
Dept of Computing Science
University of Glasgow
+44 141 330 1629


From: on behalf of paul bullock
Sent: Wed 1/7/2009 9:43 AM
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
Subject: Re: [OPE] Services (->Paula)[MESSAGE NOT SCANNED]

Paul C, We are agreed with respect to the first comment you make. With
respect to the second comment you make however, you shift the discussion
from armaments production to soldiering, ie exactly the 'subsequent'
activity to armaments production that I specifically identified initially,
and stated as requiring a subsequent assessment. I agree soldiering is an
'unproductive' activity, although imperialism depends upon it. However the
employment of workers to augment capitalist profitability through producing
eg fighter aircraft production is not unproductive .... what is specific
about this is that any productivity in this sphere cannot reduce the labour
time necessary for the reproduction of the working class, ie cannot
contribute to the production of relative surplus value, and so is a specific
burden upon capitalism. It cannot offset the tendency of the rate of profit
to fall. Not surprisingly then the drive to export arms to convert thes 'use
values' into others that can perform such a duty for national capital is
exceptionally characteristic of these industries.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Cockshott" <>
To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" <>
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 12:06 AM
Subject: RE: [OPE] Services (->Paula)[MESSAGE NOT SCANNED]

Paul B
If a chain of baber shops opens up, established capitalistically, and not as
a the sole trader or the servant used in Marx's Grundrisse example, then
profits are made. The service is unproductively consumed by the worker or
the capitalist out of their revenue .If we were to say that the labour of
these barbers was not productive of value, then we would have to apply the
same logic to every consumer item purchased by the workers... or are you
denying that the workers need to take care of their personal hygiene as much
as wear clothes?

Paul C
The position that I, David and I now see Roy Grieve take is that this
sort of service is productive because it enters into the real wage,
it is thus necessary labour. Any improvement in the techniques of barbering
( power clippers for example ), have the effect of reducing the
necessary labour time, and on a social scale, they produce relative
surplus value.

Paul B

   It is not the nature of the product of service that determines
whether the labour producing them is productive or not, but the social
relation of production in which the labour is employed. Thus labour
producing weapons by capitalism, essential for its survival, produce surplus
value and so profit, and rent and interest, however the nature of the use
value produced has consequences subsequently. That is another question,
which needs to be discussed, but it is different.

Paul C
My take on this is the opposite, no change in social relations can change an
unproductive activity into a productive one. The activities of soldiering
and priestcraft are inherently unproductive. Even if one organised companies
of mercernaries or companies of priests for hire to short staffed dioceses
their unproductive nature would not change.

Marx implicitly realised this when talking of particular categories of
employed labour as being 'faux frais' of capitalist production, so clearly
he, like Smith recognised that just being employed by capital was not

----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Cockshott" <>
To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" <>
Sent: Tuesday, January 06, 2009 9:59 AM
Subject: Re: [OPE] Services (->Paula)

> Paula wrote:
>> The distinction that we are interested in, however, is that between
>> useful labor (which produces use-values or utilities, as above) and
>> abstract labor (which produces value, and therefore, in normal
>> circumstances, surplus-value). What is value, then, and what is this
>> abstract labor that produces it? My answer derives from Marx's notion of
>> commodity fetishism - that value is a material relation between people
>> that takes the form of a social relation between things. Now, while every
>> relation between people is material, we are here only concerned with one
>> kind of relation - the production of material objects for others in their
>> most simple form, ie, abstracted from their practical utility. This is
>> the only kind of material relation between people that, under capitalism,
>> takes the form of a value relation between things.
>> It follows that the labor that produces razors for a capitalist is
>> productive of value, but the labor of the barber is not, even if it might
>> be productive of profits - all this regardless of who uses the razor's or
>> the barber's services, whether a worker or a capitalist; and regardless
>> also of the quality of those services, etc. The merit of this approach is
>> that it corresponds to the aim of capitalist production - not the
>> provision of concrete services to society but the accumulation of
>> material wealth /per se/.
> These are relatively non-controversial examples.
> Try instead looking at the labour in the Aldermaston atomic weapons
> factory, is that productive or not?
> What about the labour of the staff of an advertising agency?
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Received on Wed Jan 7 11:12:22 2009

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