Monday, 22 August 2016

Productive Labour - Part 10 of 15

Generally, this does not apply to that labour-power which exchanges directly with revenue. In these cases, the labour-power is not involved in the production and provision of commodities. Smith is aware that for some of these workers this is not true.

“... a seamstress whom I get to come to my house to sew shirts, or workmen who repair furniture, or the servant who scrubs and cleans the house, etc., or the cook who gives meat and other things their palatable form, fix their labour in a thing and in fact increase the value of these things in exactly the same way as the seamstress who sews in a factory, the engineer who repairs the machine, the labourers who clean the machine, or the cook who cooks in a hotel as the wage-labourer of a capitalist. These use-values are also, potentially, commodities; the shirts may be sent to the pawnshop, the house resold, the furniture put up to auction, and so on. Thus these persons have potentially also produced commodities and added value to the objects on which they have worked. But this is a very small category among unproductive workers, and does not apply either to the mass of menial servants or to parsons, government officials, soldiers, musicians and so on.” (TOSV 1, p 164-5) 

But, Marx makes clear it is not at all a question as to whether the labour is involved in the production of a physical commodity, or whether that commodity perishes with the act of its production, rather than being fixed in some object that determines whether the labour is productive or unproductive, but only whether it exchanges with capital rather than revenue, and whether, therefore, it is productive of surplus value.

“The cook in the hotel produces a commodity for the person who as a capitalist has bought her labour—the hotel proprietor; the consumer of the mutton chops has to pay for her labour, and this labour replaces for the hotel proprietor (apart from profit) the fund out of which he continues to pay the cook. On the other hand if I buy the labour of a cook for her to cook meat, etc., for me, not to make use of it as labour in general but to enjoy it, to use it as that particular concrete kind of labour, then her labour is unproductive, in spite of the fact that this labour fixes itself in a material product and could just as well (in its result) be a vendible commodity, as it in fact is for the hotel proprietor.” (TOSV 1, p 165)

As set out earlier, for me, as an individual consumer of the cook's labour, it does not reproduce for me the fund out of which the cook is to be paid. If I want the cook to prepare mutton chops for me again another day, I must obtain revenue once again from some other source, so as to be able to buy the product of the cook's labour. But, if I buy the cook's labour-power as a capitalist, in selling the cooked mutton chops to a customer, in the process I reproduce the fund from which both the mutton chops and the cook's labour-power is to be bought once more, as well as in the process realising a surplus value.

“This distinction however is also to be found between commodities. The commodity which the capitalist buys to replace his constant capital (for example, cotton material, if he is a cotton printer) replaces its value in the printed cotton. But if on the other hand he buys it in order to consume the cotton itself, then the commodity does not replace his outlay.” (TOSV 1, p 165)

For the vast majority of workers, this kind of labour, which exchanges directly with revenue has to be performed by themselves. They do not employ cooks, cleaners and so on to perform these functions, but undertake them themselves, in addition to their own productive labour.

“It can only cook meat for itself when it has produced a wage with which to pay for the meat; and it can only keep its furniture and dwellings clean, it can only polish its boots, when it has produced the value of furniture, house rent and boots. To this class of productive labourers itself, therefore, the labour which they perform for themselves appears as “unproductive labour”. This unproductive labour never enables them to repeat the same unproductive labour a second time unless they have previously laboured productively.” (TOSV 1, p 166)

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