Re: [OPE] "Parasitism"

From: Paula <>
Date: Fri Jan 30 2009 - 22:56:36 EST

David:"I am becoming very frustrated with this argument."

Me too. Especially with Jurriaan's unhelpful approach, eg: "the meaning of parasitism is that the parasitic agent feeds off the host organism to the detriment of the host, and that the parasite is in no sense "necessary" for the functioning of the host organism." Fine for biologists, but can political economists apply this term in a similar, though not strictly identical, sense? Or even in several different senses?

Of course we can, because Jurriaan is quite wrong to say that there is "no analogy here with unproductive labour in the Marxian sense". Very simply, the unproductive worker consumes ("feeds off") the objects produced by the productive worker; while this consumption is not "necessary" for the reproduction of the productive worker. Here we are talking about productive and unproductive labor in a general, trans-historical sense.

Returning to the issue we began with, the issue David also raises in his article, British capitalism - may we also describe it as (partially, and increasingly) parasitic? Yes, but clearly we would be employing a different, nevertheless analogous, sense of the term, a sense that refers to transfers of surplus-value between different branches of capital, between different nations, etc.

I agree with David's point (in his article) that the growth of service employment has important political consequences in terms of divisions within the working class; quite possibly this growth has been a major objective factor in the decline of socialist politics over the post-war period. But I think this is a global trend, not only one for 'advanced' nations such as Britain. Similarly, the photo caption on p8 talks about monopoly profits in the oil industry (a form of 'parasitism' that is specific to the imperialist epoch), but is then wrong to imply that 'Third World' capital doesn't extract these kind of profits as well. Still along the same lines, the super-exploitation of immigrants takes place also in many so-called developing nations, eg in Saudi Arabia.


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Received on Fri Jan 30 23:01:41 2009

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