[OPE-L:2112] Re: Re: Why is Malthus correct on unproductive labor, according to Marx?

From: Jurriaan Bendien (djjb99@worldonline.nl)
Date: Wed Jan 12 2000 - 10:21:03 EST

[ show plain text ]

Prof. Foley wrote:

 but there are also
>places where Marx seems to veer into the idea that a socialist economy
>would eliminate unproductive labor.

I would like to know where Marx suggests this. As far as I know, he does
not claim anything like that, although he implies that socialism could
eliminate numerous sources of inefficiences and waste. It would be more
correct (and healthier) to argue, I think, that contrary to what the old
Stalinist-type social accounting suggested, the distinction between
productive and unproductive labour would be irrelevant in a socialist
economy. Other criteria would be applied to the social valuation of labour,
e.g. social utility.

>It's interesting that neoclassical economics, which I guess must represent
>bourgeois political economy in our period, is resolutely opposed to the
>meaningfulness of the distinction.

I gained the impression years ago that a similar distinction does assert
itself under different headings in micro-economics, such as "increasing
labour productivity and efficiency" and "eliminating waste" and "the
optimal utilisation of labour". My impression is that neo-classical
economics is "resolutely opposed to the meaningfulness of the distinction"
only in that it is incapable of making such a distinction in a
non-capricious way at the "macro-economic" level. Thus, in conventional
social accounting, justabout any labour generating a measurable income for
a corporate entity or a person is treated as "production", hence
"productive" - except however for such things as "transfers" and the
banking sector (leading to such paradoxes that when unemployment increases
and more government staff are hired to deal with it, GDP can actually
increase). A crude moral distinction does, as far as I am aware, persist in
bourgeois economic thought between "making things" (regarded as productive
and creative) and "shuffling paper" (regarded as unproductive), but the
difficulty is that a consistent theoretical foundation for such a valuation
is lacking.

In solidarity


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Jan 31 2000 - 07:00:06 EST