[OPE-L:1289] Re: Advertising and productive labour

From: zarembka@acsu.buffalo.edu
Date: Sun Sep 19 1999 - 14:42:23 EDT

On 09/19/99 at 05:53 PM, "Michael J Williams"
<michael@williamsmj.screaming.net> said:

>> What matters is that there is no use-value in the ad.

>You have yet to explain to me why you assert this.

I have tried by negative example--e.g., TV viewers showing their contempt
by simply walking out on commercials. I cannot identify a use-value for
those so exposed. I am at a loss for words. Do we or do we not agree
that there is no use-value for a viewer?

>> Regarding ads, Coke and Pepsi have use-value, not the ad. You are
>> still using the 'success' (result) criteria--if it is paid for (whether
>> in-house or out-sourced) it must have use-value.

>Imo the only role that the category 'use-value' plays in Marx's
>systematic account of capitalism is that to be a commodity, a product of
>labour must have a use-value for someone, otherwise it will not be

You have agreed with me that it doesn't make any difference whether the ad
is produced in-house or out-sourced. I could therefore take the easy way
out and note that production processes inside a firm are not commodities.
To which you may reply, "its use-value is demonstrated by it being able to
become a commodity when in the hands of an ad agency".

Is a mortgage loan a commodity, even though we have only interest (M-M',
the collapsed form of M-C-M')? If so, what is its use value, given that
there is no "C"? (Note: I am abstracting from the banking system as an
intermediary in posing this question. Also, if this question takes us on
a new road, perhaps I should withdraw it.)

>Capital valorises by employing labour that produces
>commodities. Capital is indifferent to the nature of that use-value. It
>is to my mind perfectly reasonable to draw from this the conclusion that
>that which systematically sells has demonstrated that it has a use-value
>in the sense required for it to be a capitalist commodity (and so for the
>labour that produces it to be, in principle, productive).

"Symtematically sells" is again a criterion of "success".

>> You never actually tell
>> us, nor even speculate, WHAT the use-value of an ad consists.

>That is because the nature of the use-value is not germane to the issue
>of whether the labour that produces the commodity is (un)productive. In
>case it helps, I hereby speculate that the use-value of the advertising
>services to the people who buy them is that they help, in the short or
>medium run, to sell more Pepsi/Coke, or to sell them at a higher price.
>This in turn enhances the valorisation of the capital invested in
>Coke/Pepsi production.

"Help...to sell" and "sell them at a higher price" are again criteria of

>> Because this is not what is happening. What happens is that an ad empty
>> of substance is thrust on viewers--they do not "buy" it nor do they like
>> it (except in the very minor exception I mentioned).

>I don't want to appear grumpy, but we can progress this conversation
>better if you read carefully what I say. It is the marketting executives
>in Coke/Pepsi to whom I am attributing a 'liking' for the services that
>they buy on behalf of their Corporation, *not* the final consumers of
>Coke or Pepsi. You presumably do not wish to remove the labour producing
>all intermediate commodities from the class of productive labour?

I read you carefully but we are not meeting at the same crossroads. I was
not talking about capitalists as capitalists 'liking' anything but rather
those who are forced to view ads (consumers--workers and/or capitalists).
>From my position, if you could persuade me that capitalists as consumers
themselves are getting pleasure out of ads (mostly, they are too far in
the sky to watch ads) then we are returning to the same crossroad. But you
have only used the "success" criteria, to the best of my reading your
postings, and so we are still on different crossroads.

By the way, I did make a reference to "liking" in the Polish, quite
atypical situation (which itself has presumably disappeared). In other
words, I am open to an argument you have not made--consumers enjoy
commercials because "it stimulates our sensory preceptions", "the
increased decibels wakes us up", "guys and gals are sexy and substitutes
for Playgirl or Playboy", "ad as a counterpose to the rest of the program
stimulate my interest in the program", "ads provide desparately needed
viewer breaks", etc.

I have noticed that you never refer to the use-value to the consumer to
defend your position, even as Coke and Pepsi products themselves quench

>Thirst-quenching is the use-value of Coke/Pepsi, not of the advertising
>services by which they are marketted. The use-value of these advertising
>services is to 'have "succeeded in getting thirsty people to purchase
>Coke or Pepsi'.

Again the criterion applied for use-value is a result ("succeeded").
(Recall my comment: death does not gangrene imply.)

>I hope that it is clear that I am not taking a position on whether or not
>capitals tend to *over* invest in marketting services under the pressure
>of competition. That is another issue.

Yes, it is clear, and I never thought we were discussing that. But what
happens to the structure of your argument if advertising has a zero effect
on sales (no success)? you have always presumed success? (Again, if this
creates a diversion, I withdraw the question.)


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

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