[OPE-L:1341] Re: more re advertising and productive labour

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Fri Sep 24 1999 - 17:34:39 EDT

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 19:03:48 +0100
From: Michael J Williams <michael@williamsmj.screaming.net>
To: Gerald Levy <glevy@PRATT.EDU>
Subject: Re: [OPE-L:1340] Re: more re advertising and productive labour

----- Original Message -----
From: Gerald Levy <glevy@PRATT.EDU>
To: <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
Sent: Friday, September 24, 1999 1:51 PM
Subject: [OPE-L:1340] Re: more re advertising and productive labour

> Advertising labor is not productive of surplus value because its whole
> purpose is _not_ to produce commodities but to _sell_ them. That is, it is
> labor which does not produce surplus value but rather "actualizes" (or
> "realizes") surplus value.

The statements you make about the output of advertising labour are, I
agree, not controversial. But this does not speak to the point that I make,
and re-emphaised in the para from my message that you quoted. This is that
these statements address the use-value of advertising services - i.e., their
use-value is to sell commodities. We all agree. *But*, this merely persuades
us that the output of advertising labour has a use-value. Next question:
does it have value? Answer: yes, just so advertising services are produced
under capitalist direct production relations. If they are, their output is
indeed a commmodity (the unity of use-value and value), ergo, that labour is
protentially productive of surplus value. This is the point I have made many
times, without, it seems, persuading anyone: for example - no new value is
created by the mere act of exchnage. Agreed! But, the processes of exchange
generate demands (if you'll pardon the expression) for a variety of goods
and services. If those demands are met by goods or services that are
produced under capitalist direct production relations, then the labour that
produces them is potentially productive. E.G. 2: pure borrowing and lending
of money does not create new value. Agreed - indeed it is a process whereby
financial capitalists appropriate some of the surplus value produced by the
labour employed by their commercial borrowers! But the processes of credit
creation generate demands (sorry about that) for a variety of goods and
services. If those demands are met by goods and services that are produced
under capitalist direct production relations, then the labour that produces
them is potentially productive. etc., etc..

And, I would add, most of my interlocutors have agreed (or even insisted)
that whether such labour is employed in-house, or, as in the stories I have
told here, the production of the good or service is outsourced and bought in
as a commodity input, cannot effect the issue of the (un)productive nature
of the labour concerned.

I hope it is quite clear what I am saying (over and over again). But it
would appear not, since counter arguments all concern the basis for the
use-value of the good or service produced by such things as advertising
labour. And I keep saying, often to agreement and sometimes to indifference,
that the source of the demand for (and hence use value of) any output is a
matter of complete indifference to the capitalist employing the labour that
produces it - and this indifference is a systemic imperative of the
capitalist value-form dominated sytem.

> As such, advertising labor from the standpoint of an individual capitalist
> is a necessary expenditure since capitalists are vitally concerned not
> just with the production of surplus value but also the transformation of
> surplus value into profit.

This 'necessity' generates a robust use-value for the output of advertising
labour. Then we loop back into one of my stories above.
> On the one hand, one could argue that advertising labor -- to the extent
> that it is a cost that arises due to the nature of capitalist competition
> -- concerns the *distribution* of surplus value rather than the
> production of surplus value.

I do not see why - see above.
> That would be the case under the assumption that commodities are sold at
> their value. However, what if there are a *category* of commodities which
> *due to advertising* are systematically sold above their value?
> For instance, let's say that there is a category of commodities destined
> for working-class consumption (let's call this category "sneakers"). What
> is the effect of advertising? I would argue that in the case of
> "sneakers" the effect is not only who buys what sneakers (a question that
> ultimately relates to the distribution of surplus value _among
> capitalists_), but also it leads to a systematic mark-up of the price of
> sneakers to cover not only the costs of production, but the costs of
> realization as well. In other words, the price of "sneakers" reflects not
> only the cost to produce sneakers but advertising and marketing costs as
> well. If this was the practice for all of the capitalists in the "sneaker"
> market, _all_ of the capitalists in this market could gain by advertising.
> Yet if we are talking only about the redistribution of surplus value, if
> one group gains s another loses s. Can it not be the case in the example
> of the "sneaker" market, that the group that "loses" isn't other
> capitalists, but rather the consumers who purchase the "sneakers"? And
> since "sneakers" are a commodity destined for working-class consumption
> (by assumption), couldn't this mark-up over costs represent a transfer of
> income away from workers to "sneaker capitalists" that occurs in the
> market? Could not advertising, from that perspective, lead to a
> depression of *real* wages below the value of labor power?

This is an interesting speculation - but it does not touch upon the argument
that I have been making. After all, the appearance of a new brand of sneaker
in the market, quite independently of whether it is advertisied, may tend to
reduce the surplus-value appropriated by existing sneaker capitalists,
perhaps exactly by an amount equal to the surplus value that the new sneaker
capitalist appropriates. Concretely, surplus value is just 'redistributed'.
Does that make the new sneaker labour unproductive? I think not.

Comradely ...,


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