Re: [OPE] Reply to critics

From: Dave Zachariah <>
Date: Tue Oct 12 2010 - 18:23:58 EDT

  On 2010-10-12 22:49, Paula wrote:
> As far as I know the distinction between productive and unproductive
> labor was introduced by Smith. Marx elaborated it and corrected some
> minor inconsistencies in Smith, but essentially they were in agreement
> on this issue.

I'm not sure that a historian of economic thought would agree with this.
Marx writes for instance:

    In Adam Smith’s definition of what he calls productive labour as
    distinguished from unproductive labour, we find the same two-sided
    approach as we have found on every question up to now. Jumbled
    together in his presentation we find two definitions of what he
    calls productive labour, and to begin with we will examine the
    *first, the correct definition*. [...]

    The determinate material form of the labour, and therefore of its
    product, in itself has nothing to do with this distinction between
    productive and unproductive labour. For example, the cooks and
    waiters in a public hotel are *productive labourers*, in so far as
    their labour is transformed into capital for the proprietor of the
    hotel. These same persons are unproductive labourers as menial
    servants, inasmuch as I do not make capital out of their services,
    but spend revenue on them. [...]

    To the extent that capital conquers the whole of production, and
    therefore the home and petty form of industry—in short, industry
    intended for self-consumption, not producing commodities—disappears,
    it is clear that the unproductive labourers, those whose services
    are directly exchanged against revenue, will for the most part be
    performing only personal services, and only an inconsiderable part
    of them (like cooks, seamstresses, jobbing tailors and so on) will
    produce material use-values. That they produce no commodities
    follows from the nature of the case. For the commodity as such is
    never an immediate object of consumption, but a bearer of
    exchange-value. Consequently only a quite insignificant part of
    these unproductive labourers can play a direct part in material
    production once the capitalist mode of production has developed.
    They participate in it only through the exchange of their services
    against revenue. This does not prevent, as Adam Smith remarks, *the
    value of the services* of these unproductive labourers being
    determined and determinable in the same (or an analogous) way as
    that of the productive labourers: that is, by the production costs
    involved in maintaining or producing them.
    [Emphasis added]

According to Marx, "the second, wrong conception of productive labour
which Smith develops" is the one based on labour which fixes and realise
itself in some such vendible commodity.

//Dave Z
ope mailing list
Received on Tue Oct 12 18:25:38 2010

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