[OPE-L:1222] Re: Advertising and productive labour

From: zarembka@acsu.buffalo.edu
Date: Tue Sep 14 1999 - 13:32:58 EDT

An example: the end result of a Coke and a Pepsi ad is nothing. Nothing
of usefulness to humans has been created. There is not even "information"
on chemical composition, etc, of the products, or even which is the
closest store to purchase. The labor power purchased by capitalists to
engage labor power to produce that ad (secretaries, draftspersons, video
specialists, designers, bookkeepers, ads for the ad business, ...) results
in a nothing. When I remark on that to my students, none (or almost none,
excepting apologists for capitalism) defend the result as the product of
productive labor.

On the other hand, the labor power purchased to produce and ship the Coke
and Pepsi is productive.

Ordinary working class people know advertising for what it is (or at least
it so seems to me). The productive/unproductive distinction is to enrich
our understanding of capitalism. Of course, application of the
distinction is not always so easy, but advertising is not for me one of
the difficult cases.

Of course, Jerry's comments are relevant here. Paul Z.

On 09/14/99 at 05:37 PM, Jurriaan Bendien <djjb99@worldonline.nl> said:

>Hi Paul

>At 09:15 AM 9/14/99 -0400, you wrote:
>>If labor engaged in doing nothing of any social value is "productive" and
>>productive of expanding surplus value (which is what capitalism is about)
>>then the basis of capitalism is, at least in part, "nothingness".
>>"Silly"? "personal prejudice"? Paul Zarembka

>Does this remark have something to do with my comments on metaphysics ?
>For a commodity to be of "social value" there must be demand for it from
>at least one other person, that is all that is required. I don't know
>what you mean by "labour engaged in doing nothing of social value". This
>could be interpreted in some moral sense, or it could be interpreted in
>the sense of economic value.

>If it is interpreted in a moral sense, then the same applies what I said
>to Jerry: capitalists do not moralise with respect to their own
>profitmaking; and many commodities are produced which aren't good for
>people, the labour involved is productive yet the product may be harmful.

>If it is interpreted in an economic sense, then "labour producing nothing
>of any social value" is not productive labour according to the strict
>Marxian definition. My point has been that such statements are too
>general, and we have to get down to specifics to form a coherent concept
>of productive labour. The problematic of productive labour is I think
>important because (1) we have to do our social accounting sums correctly,
>(2) we need to understand the way the capitalist division of labour is
>evolving, (3) we need to understand the way in which the bourgeois
>valuation of labour is changing.

>Incidentally, the problematic of productive labour in capitalist society
>is different from the problematic of socially useful labour in socialist

>In solidarity


Paul Zarembka, supporting RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY at
******************** http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/PZarembka

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