Re: [OPE] Reply to critics

Date: Fri Oct 29 2010 - 09:19:05 EDT

Paula and others:
(Sometimes I feel like we're trying to re-invent the wheel.)

Many of the (misguided, imo) attempts to re-define productive and unproductive
labor are motivated by a political agenda. This is most blatant in recent years
in the 2005 article by David Harvie:

"All Labour Produces Value For Capital And We All Struggle Against Value"
For Harvie, all labor then is productive labor. That conception fits in well
with the slogan "Workers of the World Unite" (and fits in well with a reading
of _Capital_ as political a la Harry Cleaver), but, imo, entirely misunderstands
the reason for this category in Marx. Harvie, though, was certainly not alone in
this effort to re-cast the definitions of productive and unproductive labor
for political reasons: it was, imo, the issue that was motivating the debates
in the 1970s on whether unpaid housework was productive labor.
In any event, Paula has objected to the definition I have suggested of
productive labor claiming that it is "vague" and "tautological". But, is
she aware of the literature in which this very definition has been used
and, hence, who also by way of inference is being tautological and vague?
Broadly speaking, I am only saying what others, including Shaikh and Tonak
and Tonak and Savran have said before and (of course) better.
Maybe it would help Paula understand this position better if she looks at
Figure 1 on page 141 of the above. If she still doesn't understand the
relevance of production labor and labor concerned with the distribution
of surplus value and labor concerned with the 'reproduction and circulation
of the social order' she can read Shaikh and Tonak's exposition on this topic
in _Measuring the Wealth of Nations_. (NB: this is not a total endorsement
of their perspective. Rather, as I wrote earlier, I agree with it in broad terms).
In any event, Paula, please do not continue to believe that it is a
perspective which hasn't been explained, is vague, and is tautological.
In solidarity, Jerry

>>>There are several conditions which need to be met for service
>>> labor (or ANY labor) to be productive of commodities and surplus-value.
>>> They include:
>>> - wage labor exchanged against capital;
>>> - the labor must be production labor (i.e. actually engaged in production,
>>> part of the production process);
>>> - the service must produce surplus-value rather than merely be
>>> concerned with legal title, including ownership, or sale of the commodity.
>> The first condition is trivial for this discussion, since it's part of our
>> assumptions. We're trying to find out which labor EMPLOYED BY CAPITAL
>> produces surplus-value for capitalism as a whole. The second condition is
>> vague,
> That's almost identical to saying that 'production' is a vague concept.
> If 'production' isn't vague, then we can identify labor which is engaged
> in production (of commodities).
>> the third is tautological.
> It is a 'tautology' to refer to the difference between labor which produces
> surplus-value vs. labor which is concerned merely with the legal title to
> surplus-value and commodities? Once again, you show you don't understand
> the meaning of tautologies. Worse that that - you make that claim as a way of
> dismissing other perspectives rather than taking them seriously.
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Received on Fri Oct 29 09:20:57 2010

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