[OPE-L:1351] Re: still more on advertising and productive labour

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Sun Sep 26 1999 - 18:35:54 EDT

Re Mike W's [OPE-L:1348]:

Previously I wrote:

> > <snip, JL> 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.

The logic is very simple: *in the absence of advertising, the commodity
would still be produced* (this assumes that there isn't product
differentiation and we aren't talking about new products).

[Digression on "new products": in those newly-forming markets, a counter
argument could be made. I.e. it _is_ the case that advertising labor can
create a demand for a new product. In that case, one could argue that
advertising labor could be a *pre-condition* to capitalist profit-making
in that market. Yet, when we talk about new product development, and
especially product differentiation in oligopolistic markets, then we are
at a level of abstraction that is far more concrete than the one in which
Marx used the productive-unproductive labor distinction.]

Previously, there was the following exchange:

> > 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
> productive
> > 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.

I must not have made myself clear. What I was suggesting is that the
argument that managers can be productive of value and surplus value (even
if one says that they are part of the "collective worker") comes
perilously close to the claim that capitalists and managers who have
"entrepreneurial ability" make a contribution to the production process
and thus that they earn and justify any income they receive. And that, of
course, is an argument that I know you are not making. *But* I think it does come
close to that argument.

This is not some "moral" question. Nor is it even an abstract, theoretical
question. This is a question about who is a member of the working class.
And it is a question about what the role of management is. From my
perspective, managers are the representatives of the Boss. Many times,
they even are the Boss (especially in smaller capitalist firms). "They"
are not part of "us". Their role is to *extract surplus-value from

Thus, you can see that there is no reference to some future (more
"rational and humane") society in the argument above. Rather, it is a
position rooted in a -- dare I say, class-conscious? -- understanding of
contemporary class society. Consequently, your previous argument misses
the mark.

> > 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.

In the US, they (the courts and the Law) define lawyers as "agents of the
Court". That is, they are considered to be agents of the State. Agents
of the capitalist state.

In solidarity, Jerry

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