[OPE-L:1263] Re: Re: Re: Advertising and productive labour

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk)
Date: Fri Sep 17 1999 - 06:40:35 EDT

At 23:34 16/09/99 +0100, Michael J Williams wrote:

>The specific difference between productive and unproductive labour is that
>the former produces surplus value, whilst the latter does not. This has
>nothing to do with the nature of the use-value produced - except that for
>surplus value to be produced the product must be a successful commodity, and
>so must have a use-value for someone.

> > I would assert that whilst there has been a change in the employment
> > relation of the butlers, they are now company employees not personal
> > employees, this can not of itself convert an unproductive activity into
> > a productive one. Of itself all that it does is transfer some of the
> > surplus value which would have stayed with the Duke into the hands
> > of the owner of the catering company.
>This is where we disagree - the capitalist catering company employs
>productive labour that produces a service commodity. Who pays to buy that
>commodity is certainly not germane to the issue. Is the labour that produces
>the Roller that the Duke buys unproductive because it is bought by the Duke?

Yes the labour of producing Rolls Royces is certainly unproductive,
as is all labour in department III ( labour that is devoted to capitalist
luxury consumption ).

This is shown most clearly by von Neumann and Sraffa, but it was also
implicit in Marxs and Ricardos analysis of relative surplus value.
The augmentation of surplus value in the economy as a whole depends
upon the cheapening of the elements of workers consumption - provided
that the working day is either fixed or declining. We know that in established
capitalist economies the historical tendancy is for the working day to
decline, production of surplus value, even its continuation, depends upon
the production of relative surplus value. No relative surplus value can
be produced in department 3 , hence all dept 3 labour is unproductive.

> >
> > Clearly one can make a similar arguement in which the Coca-Cola company
> > employ their own advertising staff in 1910, but today employ an outside
> > agency. If the work was unproductive in 1910 it does not, by transfer
> > to an outside company become productive.
>This is not a relevantly analogous case. Imo, the advertising labour is
>productive when employed in-house (as part of the collective labour
>producing and selling Coke) and remains so when it is outsourced to a
>capitalist advertising company, whose services are bought as a commodity.

The unproductive nature of in house advertising can be established by
the following gedanken experiment. Suppose all advertising by Pepsi and
Coke is in house. Then suppose they arrive at a cartel agreement to
cut their advertising budget by 50%. The saving in advertising is immediately
apparent as increased profits to the two companies. This labour is thus
revealed as the faux frais of competition not labour socially necessary
for production.

> >
> > It follows of course from this argument that in addition to there being
> > unproductive labour there is such a thing as an unproductive commodity.
> > No labour that contributes only to an unproductive commodity can
> > itself be productive.
>You will have to explain '(un)productive' commodity. I was under the
>impression that only labour (employed under capitalist production relations)
>was productive (ie produced surplus value.

Employment under capitalist relations of employment is a condition but
not a sufficient condition of being productive. Productive labour is a subset
of capitalistically employed labour which in turn is a subset of all labour.

> Incidently, the issue is n0ot
>whether that labour is *more or less* productive than it would be elsewhere,
>which is waht your earlier argument seemed to rest upon.

These are not different arguments. The key issue is whether aggregate surplus
value in increased or diminished by transfer of labour. That was the issue that
Smith and Marx were concerned with. Unproductive labourers were idle mouths
that ate up the surplus product preventing it being used to improve the general
conditions of production. A transfer into unproductive activities reduced the
sum of disposable surplusvalue.


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