[OPE-L:1368] Re: still more on advertising and productive labour

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Wed Sep 29 1999 - 21:22:24 EDT

Mike W wrote in [OPE-L:1367]:

> This is all a discussion about what it is that generates the demand for
> advertising services, i.e. what endows them with use-value for their
> purchaser. As such it speaks not at all the issue of whether the labour
> producing advertising services is (un)productive.

Right. That's why I labeled it a "Digression".

> I'm not sure what 'close' means here - but it seems to rest on some notion
> about the social wastefulness of such labour - and my point is that such a
> consideration is not germane to the (un)productive labour distinction.

No, it rather focuses on what the role of capitalists is within the labor
process. These managerial functions can be performed by the capitalists
themselves (as often happens in smaller capitalist enterprises) _or_ by
managers. As such, managers function as the designated representatives of

> This discourse is at a
> more concrete level than that at which the (un)productive labour
> distinction is established.

Probably. On the other hand, Marx did talk about the "wages of
superindendence" (mostly in _TSV_).

> btw, Note that charge-hands, typically with little or no extra wages, are
> also in a supervisory role ensuring an adequate intensity of labour - does
> that make their labour (un)productive too?

I don't understand what "charge-hands" refers to. It must be a term used
in the UK but not in the US.

> One might even applaud the unproductive labour for undermining
> the capitalist system!


> Instead of which, you seem to want to applaud the
> extortion of surplus value from workers, since it is that which makes them
> productive.

No, that's not my position. From my perspective (and I think from Marx's
as well) productive laborers only make-up a portion of the working class.
Moreover, it is (as I believe Marx said somewhere) no great honor or
privilege to be exploited. Indeed, I see no reason to assume _a priori_
that productive workers will be either more class-conscious or will have
more of a revolutionary role that unproductive workers.

(I think, btw, that this has been the mistaken fuel that has ignited most
of the debates -- outside of OPE-L -- on productive vs. unproductive
labor. I.e. there has been the implicit belief that productive labor is
somehow "more important" than unproductive labor. Those who were
politically active in movements aimed at organizing what are called
"unproductive labor" and were sometimes slighted by organized political
parties on the Left took exception to this designation. Yet, from my
perspective -- and I think from Marx's and yours as well -- this
distinction between productive and unproductive labor is not one that is a
political designation nor does it suggest that the productive laborers are
more important than unproductive laborers from the standpoint of the
working class. From a working-class perspective, I believe that e.g.
struggles by members of the working class who are state employees can be
every bit as important as struggles by workers who might be designated as
productive laborers.)

In solidarity, Jerry

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