[OPE-L:1349] Re: Re: still more on advertising and productive labour

From: Michael J Williams (michael@williamsmj.screaming.net)
Date: Sun Sep 26 1999 - 16:48:07 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: Jurriaan Bendien <djjb99@worldonline.nl>
To: <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
Sent: Sunday, September 26, 1999 4:32 PM
Subject: [OPE-L:1347] Re: still more on advertising and productive labour

>This is because their labour is fully integrated in, and
> technically indispensable for many production processes, i.e. their labour
> is productive in function. So we have to distinguish between different
> strata of management, some of which are productive and some of which
> exercise only purely administrative or control functions.

I can make sense of this distinction - but it does rest not only on
use-value considerations ('technically indispensable' managerial services,
versus 'controlling' managerial), but it seems if pushed you will be forced
to base the distinction on comparison between a class-ridden (capitalism)
system - when 'control' is needed - and some notional non-class system
(involving freely associating producers, or whatever), in which managerial
control is not needed. It seems to me that that this kind of
trans-historical 'use-value' consideration is not what the (un)productive
labour distinction is about. Put otherwise: if *technically* indispensable
functions generate a demand for managerial services produced by productive
managerial labour, why should that managerial labour that produces services
that have a use-value for the capitlaist that buys them be excluded just
because that use-value is derived from 'institutionally', 'organisationally'
or 'socially' indispensable functions

> it is evident that many managers and supervisory
> personnel at the lower levels do not earn significantly more either than
> skilled or even semi-skilled workers.

This is, surely, neither here nor there in determining their status as
(un)productive? Of course, better off, more senior managers are more likely
to exhibit contradictory class positions in which ideology overwhelems their
objective relationship to the means of production.
> The general criterion
> I think ought to be whether or not the actual "physical" production
> of a commodity would be impossible without their labour,

Once again, it seems to me that you would be forced to ground this argument
ultimately on transhistorical 'use-value' criteria, that have nothing
whatsoever to do with the (un)productive labour distinction.

> and whether or not
> the labour is indifferent to the specific use-value being produced.

I'm not sure what this means in this context, or what its import is for your
> There exists a certain type of myth according to which a socialist economy
> could do away with managers who performing co-ordination and planning
> functions but this is not the case, and it has been proved in all cases
> where workers' self-management has been tried. What a socialist economy
> do is abolish a series of control functions and administrative functions,
> make managerial functions elected functions, and reduce income disparities
> between the average worker and the manager.

I agree. But surely the fact that you raise this question just now supports
my contention that your criterion for distinguishing between productive and
unproductive (managerial) labour is a trans-historical comparison with,
here, a 'socialist' economy. I have said many times that this is a useful
critical exercise, but it has nothing to do with whether some labour *under
capitalism* is or is not productive *of surplus value*.

Please can someone tell me whether the (un)productive labout distinction is,
in thier opinion, based upon what I have called transhistorical use-value
criteria, or not? Because the situation at the moment seems to be that many
participants in this debate want to deny that is the basis of their
criterion - but then deploy just such a criterion in their argument! Is
productive labour primarily that which would be required for the production
of particular kinds of useful object under any mode of production that
produced it? If so, what has that to do with the core defining
characteristic that under capitalism, productive labour is that productive
of value and surplus value? Turn it around: capital often buys inputs
necessary to the material production of the objects that it produces as
commodites, from non-capitalist producers. But since the use-value they
produce is, ex hypothesi, technically indispensable, are you saying that the
labour that produces it (performed under non-capitalist direct production
relations) is in principle of surplus value?

Yours in puzzled discourse,


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