>So if you were to supervise the labor of others (as in the case of
>"managerial labor"), you would consider that labor (if it was performed
>under capitalist direct production relations) to be productive labor? I'm
>afraid that such a perspective comes perilously close to the perspective
>that capitalists and their representatives -- in the form of managers --
>are productive of value and surplus value.
I would argue that some, but not all managers participate in the production
of value and surplus-value, i.e. that their labour adds value to the output
produced. This is because their labour is fully integrated in, and
technically indispensable for many production processes, i.e. their labour
is productive in function. So we have to distinguish between different
strata of management, some of which are productive and some of which
exercise only purely administrative or control functions. I believe this
interpretation is particularly important when you consider the concrete
activities of the information technology industry, and when you consider
the growing complexity of the modern division of labour (which makes
coordination functions technically indispensable). If we look at it from an
income point of view, it is evident that many managers and supervisory
personnel at the lower levels do not earn significantly more either than
skilled or even semi-skilled workers.
Another way of putting the argument is that managers are often part of the
"collective worker' (Gesamtarbeiter) in Marx's sense. The general criterion
I think ought to be whether or not the actual "physical" production process
of a commodity would be impossible without their labour, and whether or not
the labour is indifferent to the specific use-value being produced.
There exists a certain type of myth according to which a socialist economy
could do away with managers who performing co-ordination and planning
functions but this is not the case, and it has been proved in all cases
where workers' self-management has been tried. What a socialist economy can
do is abolish a series of control functions and administrative functions,
make managerial functions elected functions, and reduce income disparities
between the average worker and the manager.
PS - I notice we are starting to get quite interesting arguments about the
nature of commodities, such as the "products" of law offices and suchlike.
In my experience the general trend is for an increasing amount of services
to be termed "products" which are operationally defined in a fairly precise
way for budgeting purposes. I think Marx would still rule those out the
"products" of law offices as commodities since he considered them not part
of material production, of the production of material wealth. But as
commentators have said, this is a bit tricky because for instance why
should we consider a computer programme "material production" and a legal
document "non-material production".
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