[OPE-L:1346] still more on advertising and productive labour

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Sun Sep 26 1999 - 08:56:51 EDT

Mike W wrote in [OPE-L:1345]:

> Perhaps we can hone things
> down a bit if we can agree that commodites in principle embody surplus
> value? Under the conditions specified, the advertising labour, imo,
> produces a service in the commodity form. The fact that the demand for
> that service is generated by processes of selling and 'realising',
> that, we agree, cannot create new value, is to me, not germane. Those
> processes involve the *consumption* of the advertising services
> produced. My consumption of a chicken leg doesn't create new value
> either, but that does not make chicken producing labour unproductive!

If you didn't have a demand for chicken legs (by the way, white meat
without that delicious burnt flesh is better for you, or so most
nutritionists and cardiologists now say), chickens would still be produced
(and not just by other chickens either). That is, the commodity (in this
case, chicken leg) is in principle produced *independently* of whether
there is advertising.

Thus, we could think of the products/services on the market as
constituting two sets. One set, we could call "commodities". Another set
consists of those products/services which concern such matters as the
transfer of legal title, bank loans, and advertising.

It is, of course, true that legal, bank, and advertising services all have
(or can have) a use-value and an exchange-value (and, as you point out
above, are consumed).

What distinguishes this type of consumption from, say, the consumption of
means of production by capitalists is that the later category is consumed
*in the production process*. And that is what I see as what is under
dispute. I.e. is advertising labor engaged in the process of the
*production* of commodities?

I wrote previously:
> Lawyers, supervisors, and accountants perform a use-value for
> capitalists. That labor also has an exchange value (otherwise capitalists
> wouldn't pay their salaries). Yet, this does not mean that the labor
> performed by these groups is creative of value.

Mike responded:
> If it is performed under capitalist direct production relations, I have
> yet to hear a convincing argument why not.

So if you were to supervise the labor of others (as in the case of
"managerial labor"), you would consider that labor (if it was performed
under capitalist direct production relations) to be productive labor? I'm
afraid that such a perspective comes perilously close to the perspective
that capitalists and their representatives -- in the form of managers --
are productive of value and surplus value.

Now, let's consider lawyers. If I am a lawyer and write a piece of paper
(lets say a "Last Will and Testament"), how can that be productive labor?
All that service does is alter the legal title -- the ownership -- of
commodities rather than *produce* commodities. This is the case
irrespective of whether the lawyer worked for a capitalist firm or the

The labor of accountants, similarly, has a use-value and an
exchange-value. But, is it labor that is part of the production process?

> Incidently, you will not be
> surprised to learn that, imo, their labour (actually 'labour power')
> does not have an
> exchange value - the commodity service that it produces does.

I understand. From your perspective, labor power isn't a commodity (and
neither is money).

> > So labor performed at banks is "potentially productive" of surplus
> > value?
> Imo, yes. Even if, as I did, we restrict its functions to setting up credit
> lines. Of coure, as Jurriaan mentioned, it also produces a host of other
> banking services.

I don't get it. You argue that money isn't a commodity but credit can be?
Yet, isn't credit part of the money supply?

In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sun Feb 27 2000 - 15:27:10 EST