[OPE-L:1348] Re: still more on advertising and productive labour

From: Michael J Williams (michael@williamsmj.screaming.net)
Date: Sun Sep 26 1999 - 15:31:45 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: Gerald Levy <glevy@PRATT.EDU>
To: <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
Sent: Sunday, September 26, 1999 1:56 PM
Subject: [OPE-L:1346] still more on advertising and productive labour

> If you didn't have a demand for chicken legs ... chickens would still be
> (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.

1. I do not follow the logic of this. If no-one has a demand for chicken
legs, they would not be produced in the commodity form. There are many
things that are successful commodities independently of advertising.

2. However, the relevant issue is that you are not addressing the point I
was trying (obviously not very successfully) to make, which was not, in the
first instance, about the role of advertising in generating (more)
use-values for the kind of commodity that is being advertised, but about the
fact that advertising services do indeed have a - demonstrated - use-value
for someone (say the marketting department of the commodity advertised).
Then under the conditions stipulated many times in this discussion, the wage
labour producing those advertising services is, in principle producing
(surplus) value for the advertising capitalist (assuming out-sourcing) or
the advertised commodity capitalist (in the case of in-house production of
the advertising services). This is quite independent of the (agreed) fact
that the mere act of sale, of exchange, cannot create new value; indepndent,
except for the weak link that the use-value of the advertising service
derives from the fact that for a product to be a commodity, it must be sold.

> 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?

This is not specific enough. I am claiming, not that advertising labour is
engaged in the production of the commodity that it is advertising, but is
engaged in the production of advertising services as a commodity. This is
clear in the out-sourced case. And everyone (I think) has so far agreed that
a little vertical integration shouldn't change the in-principle
(un)productive nature of the labour involved, one way or the other.

Indeed, very early on Jurriaaan was speculating just the other way round:
that whilst hair-dressing labour that sold a haircut to me was unproductive,
that which was, in-house, concerned with helping to 'produce' the movie
star, as an input to a movie, might be productive. Flip-flopping between
opposing positions tends to indicate the presence of either an uninteresting
logical contradiction, or a potentially interesting, dialectical one.

> 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?

It is, I think, clear from my arguments, that such labour, as part of the
collective wage (or salaried) labour producing a commodity, is in principle

> 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.

This, Jerry is precisely the nub of the issue. This indication of an
argument of yours is coming perilously close to basing the (un)productive
labour distinction on whether that labour is socially useful in some more
rational and humane society, or not. And that is in fact the exact opposite
of what I am saying: managerial labour (within a capitalist enterprise) is
productive of surplus value under capitalism, but (arguably) at best
wasteful, and at worse harmful, in the larger scheme of things. The
use-value of managerial services to the capitalist that employs managerial
labour derives from the fact that it is indeed necessary in a capitalist
enterprise; their (surplus) value from the fact that that labour is employed
in a capitalist firm.
> 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
> state.

Once again, the key point that no-one has yet addressed is that whilst the
alteration of legal title in itself cannot create value, labour, demand for
the output of which derives from the alteration of title is, just do it is
performed under capitalist direct production relations, in principle
productive. The (surplus) value is pumped out of the legal worker, just
because she is employed as a wage labourer, separated from the relevant
means of production, and actually subordinated to capital. It is quite
independent of the source of the demand that gives the product of that
labour a use-value, just so there is such demand.
> The labor of accountants, similarly, has a use-value and an
> exchange-value. But, is it labor that is part of the production process?

See above - the labour of accountants is part of the production process of
accounting services; not of the commodity produced by the firm that buys
those 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?

I'll have to think about this. First stab:- In my scheme of things, the
argument that Money is not a commodity (thoguh the money-object typically
will be - even if a highly complex one) is derived from the claim that Money
(as, if you like, a hierarchical set of social functions) cannot be
reproduced under capitalist direct production relations. A credit line can
be and is - but note that there is no relation between the $ value of the
loan and the abstract labour needed to set up the credit line (if you like,
the 'credit-object').

Comradely greetings,


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