[OPE-L:1387] Re: Re: Re: bacon and eltis and Smith

From: Michael J Williams (michael@williamsmj.screaming.net)
Date: Thu Sep 30 1999 - 19:12:09 EDT

----- Original Message -----
>From: Paul Cockshott <clyder@gn.apc.org>
To: Michael J Williams <michael@williamsmj.screaming.net>; OPE-L
<OPE-L@galaxy.csuchico.edu>; Paul Cockshott <wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk>
Sent: Monday, September 27, 1999 10:33 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L:1339] Re: Re: bacon and eltis and Smith

> Adam Smith:
> A man grows rich by maintaining a multitude of manufacturers: He
> grows poor by maintaining a multitude of menial servants.

No reference to 'under capitalist direct production relations' here? And
that is 'my' necessary and sufficient condition for labour to be, in
principle, productive

> The labour
> of the latter, however, has its value and deserves its reward as well
> as that of the former. But the labour of the manufacturer fixes or
> realises itself in some particular subject or vendible commodity,
> which lasts for some time at least after that labour is past.

This is often (usually?) read as pointing to the difference between a
physical object that 'lasts ...' as opposed to a service that is, so it is
said, consumed as it produced. (see Smith a bit later) A distinction that I
have repeatedly disagreed with.

> It is
> as it were a certain quantity of labour stocked and stored up to
> be employed , if necessary, on some other occasion. That subject
> or what is the same thing, **the price of that subject**, can
> afterwards, if necessary, put into motion a quantity of labour
> equal to that which had originally produced it. The labour of the
> menial servant on the contrary, does not fix or realise itself
> in any particular subject or vendible commodity. His services
> generally perish in the very instant of their employment and
> seldom leave any trace or value behind the for which an equal
> cuantity of service could afterwards be procured.
> ( fromm first paragraph of chap III of the wealth of nations)

This seems to make the same object/service distinction. But I am happy to
gloss it iaw with my view: that it is unproductive because it is not
employed under capitalist direct production relations, and so does not
produce a commodity (physical or service).

> You say that advertising is a vendible commodity
> hence, on the Smithian definition it is productive.

You are taking me out of context. I have repeatedly said that a necessary
and sufficient condition for labour being productive, in principle, is that
it take place under capitalist direct production relations. (Of course, it
follows from the value-form perspective that I espouse that such labour
necessarily produces a commodity - physical or as a service.)
> ''that part of the annual product of land and labour of any country
> which reproduces a capital, never is immediately employed to maintain
> any but productive hands. It pays the wages of productive labour only.''

If I can take this to mean that only that labour is productive that is
employed under capitalist direct production relations, then my postion is,
for what it is worth, congruent with Smith's.
> Hence for Smith, what Marx called department I is by nature productive.
> If you read through chapter III it is clear that his primary concern
> was accumulation of capital at the national level. Unproductive labour
> is a deduction from this accumulation.

About Smith, I agree. I have also made my view clear many times on the
question of the accumulation-relevance of all productive labour: it creates
surplus-value (in principle), so it is available for accumulation. This
applies also to, for example, labour producing advertising services in the
comodity form: the surplus value it creates is, in the form of money
profits, avaialble for accumulation.
> You take Smiths empirical definition, and assume that because the
> employer of advertising labour gets a profit, that labour must be
> productive. The point however, is that Marx allows for the possiblity
> of the redistribution of surplus value so that profit and surplus value
> are not necessarily identical. The appearance of profit in the accounts
> of advertising firms does not prove that the surplus was created there,
> only that it ended up there.

This is not by argument at all. My argument is that if labour is employed
under capitalist direct production relations (RS injuries are setting in
...) then we would expect surplus value to be pumped out of that labour.
> If we move on to Sraffa and von Neumann they both in their different
> ways show that the maximum rate of accumulation and the maximum rate
> of profit are determined in the basic sector.

This captures pnly the technically necessary *use-values* that are
indispensible to simple or extended reproduction. Labour that produces those
use-values in the commodity form will certainly be, in principle,
productive. But so will labour producing all kinds of things that are
fripperies even from a bourgeois perspective, just so it is performed under
capitalist direct production relations.

> >> In contrast, if one takes a theory of unproductive labour based on the
> >> Sraffian basic commodity, one can see that certain public services are
> >> materially productive and contribute to the production of the social
> >surplus,

But they cannot be productive of surplus value, if they are not performed
under capitalist direct production relations (that are but rarely mimicked
in the core state sector - e.g. abstracting from SOEs whose only connection
with the state is that the state is the sole shareholder and from other
denizens of this particular fuzzy border).

> All labour that produces surplus
> value must be labour that contributes to the production of the social
> surplus product, but not all labour that contributes to that product
> is employed by capital.

But this only rules out by fiat the productivity of advertising-commodity
producing labour. Why are not advertising services part of the social
surplus product? Only labour employed by capital enters the value-matrix. I
know that we disagree about this, since we have discussed long ago your view
about the relevance of what I would claim are specifically 'capitalist'
categories to non-capitalist societies.

Dr Michael Williams
Economics and Social Sciences
De Montfort University
Milton Keynes

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