[OPE-L:1354] Re: still more on advertising and productive laour

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Mon Sep 27 1999 - 07:20:38 EDT

Jurriaan wrote in [OPE-l:1347]:

> If we look at it from an
> income point of view, 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 neither here nor there in terms of the question concerning
whether their "labor" is productive of surplus value. Indeed, all of the
major classes have large differentials in terms of income. Certainly,
there are wide differentials in the working class and I would hazard to
guess that the average professional baseball player in the "major leagues"
in the US earns more annual income than the average manager in the US. So
what? At issue, btw, here is not only whether managerial "labor" is
productive or unproductive labor, but more fundamentally whether or not
managers are part of the working class. That is, unless you want to put
forward the proposition that a group outside of the working class can be
productive of value and surplus value in bourgeois society.
Evidently, also at issue is "what managers do". From my perspective,
their "administrative" functions can't be separated from their "control"
functions. They are the *designated representatives* of capitalists in the
production process and their mission is to squeeze out work from workers.

(Digression: on the issue of income differentials, perhaps we should note
the advantages of power and prestige in addition to income. This is a
topic well known to sociologists -- e.g. certain occupations [like college
professors!] may receive relatively low wages and benefits, but might have
a "high prestige " factor [in the case of college professors, there is
also the benefit of additional leisure time]. Yet, while this topic is
important -- and all-too-frequently ignored by economists -- it is still
not the same issue as the productive-unproductive labor distinction. Even
if managers are willing to accept a lower salary, that does not alter
their function in the labor process.)

> Another way of putting the argument is that managers are often part of the
> "collective worker' (Gesamtarbeiter) in Marx's sense. The general criterion
> I think ought to be whether or not the actual "physical" production process
> of a commodity would be impossible without their labour, and whether or not
> the labour is indifferent to the specific use-value being produced.
> 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 can
> 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 think you are employing the type of trans-historical argument that Mike
W has been critical of. The role of "management" in a socialist society is
both logically and historically separate from the question of management's
role in capitalist society.

In solidarity, Jerry

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