Re: [OPE] Reply to critics

From: Paula <>
Date: Wed Oct 13 2010 - 18:28:26 EDT

Dave wrote:
> I certainly do not think that all productive labour "is simply coexisting
> labor in a definite amount".

I'm aware, I was referring to Ian's definition.

> This does not answer my specific question regarding the painting firm:
> Is the service a 'thing' or an 'activity'? Is it relevant to say that it
> has a labour-value, or that the labour itself is productive?

A service is always an activity or, more accurately, a service is always
realized or performed through an actitivity. Labor is (in normal
circumstances) always a service, ie, an activity that produces a use-value.
The question (as I see it) is whether that labor also produces value, ie,
new wealth in the form of capital. So it depends - if the painters paint the
London Underground tunnels, they produce no new value; but if they have been
contracted by a developer to paint houses or apartments to be sold on the
market, then they do. In both cases painting is an activity and a service.
But only in the second case does that activity produce capital.

But you and Paul C are asking a different question, and so have come up with
a different definition - your question seems to be about processes that
decrease the real wage.

And this brings me to a simple but crucial point, which is that the word
'productive' can be, and is, used in many different senses. Marx also does
this - for example in the Grundrisse at one point he says that money is
productive. So we need to be extremely careful. It is in any case a terrible
idea, as Jerry keeps telling us, to treat Marx's words as gospel. Here it is
also a recipe for complete confusion.

Therefore it's no use quoting verbatim those passages from TSV. Where Marx
refers to actors and clowns being productive (Jerry's quote) or says that
"the cooks and waiters in a public hotel are productive laborers, in so far
as their labor is transformed into capital for the proprietor of the hotel"
(Dave's quote), I take this to mean productive for the proprietor, not
productive of value. Similarly, in Vol III, Marx tells us that the labor of
commercial workers is productive for their employer, but not productive of
value. Always we need to ask - productive of what, for whom, etc?

> If labour productivity in the production
> of a good would rise, do you agree that the quantity of embodied labour
> in *already* produced goods would fall? Why so?

The particular amount of labor already embodied in goods can't possibly
fall, but the socially-average labor time needed to produce them can.


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Received on Wed Oct 13 18:30:15 2010

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