[OPE-L:2101] Re: Why is Malthus correct on unproductive labor, according to Marx?

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Wed Jan 12 2000 - 01:07:13 EST

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Re Paul Z's [OPE-L:2081]:

> Theories of Surplus Value, I, Chp. IV.3 (p. 157 Progress) has Marx saying
> that
> "this critical differentiation between productive and unproductive
> labor remains
> the basis of all bourgeois political economy".
> Why does Marx say that? Why is it crucial to bourgeois political economy?
> And, whatever our own differences on this issue, is it not the case the
> Marx himself thought that the differentiation plays a role in his, not
> just bourgeois, political economy?

To begin with (in answer to the question posed in the subject line), Marx
did *not* say that Malthus was correct on unproductive labour. What he
said was that: "as Malthus rightly observed, this critical
differentiation between productive and unproductive labour remains the
basis of all bourgeois economy". He comments later, in the same chapter,
"even such people as Malthus are to be preferred, who directly defend the
necessity and usefulness of "*unproductive* labourers" and pure
parasites" [176] (the "pure parasites", probably refers to groups
like the clergy. Remember Marx's contempt for the "Parson Malthus"?).

I think that Marx's point, the validity of which imo is certainly open to
question, is that bourgeois economists (going back to the
physiocrats and mercantilists) struggled without complete success to
understand the nature of surplus value and the productive/unproductive
labor distinction associated with it.

The complete paragraph from which Marx's quote is taken is:

"Productive labour is here defined from the standpoint of capitalist
production, and Adam Smith here got to the very heart of the matter, hit
the nail on the head. This is one of his greatest scientific merits (as
Malthus rightly observed [WHERE IN MALTHUS?, JL], this critical
differentiation between productive and unproductive labour remains the
basis of all bourgeois political economy) that he defines productive
labour as labour *which is directly exchanged with capital*; that is, he
defines it by the exchange through which the conditions of production of
labour, and value in general, whether money or commodity, are first
transformed into capital (and labour into wage-labour in its scientific

The next paragraph begins:

"This also establishes absolutely what *unproductive labour* is. It is
labour which is not exchanged with capital, but *directly* with revenue,
that is, with wages or profit (including of course the various categories
of those who share as co-partners in the capitalist's profit, such as
interest and rent)."

In solidarity, Jerry


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