Sunday, 21 August 2016

Productive Labour - Part 9 of 15

Under capitalist production, revenueswages, profit, rent and interest – are exchanged for commodities, which are bought by consumers for their use value, and directly with labour-power for the provision of personal services. It is only in respect of the latter that revenue exchanges directly with labour. Where revenue buys commodities, it exchanges first with the capital that produces those commodities, not the labour itself that produces them.

The first requirement of productive labour, therefore, is that it is productive of a commodity, and that the labour does not consume more commodities than it produces, i.e. that it produces more value than it costs.

“By producing commodities the productive worker constantly reproduces the variable capital which he constantly consumes in the form of wages. He constantly produces the fund which pays him, “which maintains and employs him”.” (p 164)

Under capitalism, all production is based upon co-operative labour, and this co-operation increases in proportion as the division of labour separates each type of production into more and more tasks and types of labour. In previous modes of production, the worker combined mental and manual labour. They created a mental image of the product to be created, before engaging in its production, and performed all of the other functions of administration etc. required to purchase material and so on. Under capitalism, these mental labours themselves become separated off as separate tasks, and forms of labour, which are equally required for production as manual labour. In determining the types of labour required for the production of commodities, therefore, Smith includes all of these types of labour.

“Adam Smith naturally includes in the labour which fixes or realises itself in a vendible and exchangeable commodity all intellectual labours which are directly consumed in material production. Not only the labourer working directly with his hands or a machine, but overlooker, engineer, manager, clerk, etc.—in a word, the labour of the whole personnel required in a particular sphere of material production to produce a particular commodity, whose joint labour (co-operation) is required for commodity production. In fact they add their aggregate labour to the constant capital, and increase the value of the product by this amount.” (p 164)

As an aside here, Marx asks,

“How far is this true of bankers, etc.?” (p 164)

In Capital II, Marx argues that all of those accounting functions that may be necessary, even in communistic communities, do not add value. In fact, they represent a cost. Those involved in them perform a necessary task, but consume a portion of value, whilst adding none. Had those workers been employed in productive activity they would have created additional value. 

However, also in Capital III, Marx sets out that in this context, the labour employed in circulation, e.g. the labour employed in selling produced commodities, and so on, is also not productive, in this sense. But, Marx also goes on to demonstrate that the labour employed in such activity is productive in the sense that the worker enables the produced surplus value to be realised. The shop worker, for example, does not produce additional surplus value, but they do produce additional realised surplus value, because they reduce the costs of that process of realisation.

The shop worker, therefore, produces surplus value for the merchant capitalist, Marx says, because the value of their labour-power is determined, as for any other labour-power, and although such workers do not produce surplus value, their labour-power realises already produced surplus value. Provided the shop worker realises a greater quantity of surplus value, for the merchant capitals, than the latter pays them in wages, therefore, the shop worker adds to the surplus value realised by the merchant capital, and in this sense is productive of surplus value.

“To industrial capital the costs of circulation appear as unproductive expenses, and so they are. To the merchant they appear as a source of his profit, proportional, given the general rate of profit, to their size. The outlay to be made for these circulation costs is, therefore, a productive investment for mercantile capital. And for this reason, the commercial labour which it buys is likewise immediately productive for it.” (Capital III, Chapter 17)

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