Monday, 3 July 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 118

Rossi also repeats the argument dealt with earlier, put forward by Garnier, and others. That is that a productive-capitalist, if they do not have a servant to preform menial tasks for them, must undertake them themselves, and thereby loses time that otherwise they would have expended productively. The argument against this was put earlier, that labour that is unproductive if I perform it, does not somehow become productive if someone else performs it. But, Marx makes a further point.

“A large part of the unproductive labourers who would be excluded by this are menial servants (in so far as they provide only luxury articles), and all unproductive labourers who produce merely enjoyment and whose labour I can only enjoy in so far as I use just as much time to enjoy it as its seller uses to produce it, to provide it for me. In both cases there can be no talk of “saving” labour.” (p 297)

Marx says,

"Finally, even really labour-saving personal services would only be productive in so far as their consumer is a producer. If he is an idle capitalist, they only save him the labour of doing anything at all.” (p 297)

This seems to contradict the argument set out earlier. The labour undertaken by the cleaner, employed by the worker, is not made productive by the fact that this releases time for the worker to engage in productive activity. If the cleaner provides 5 hours per week of labour to the worker, the worker must obtain 5 hours of additional value in wages to cover this cost, but the worker is thereby only enabled to provide 5 hours of additional labour to capital.

As the productive worker supplies 5 hours of additional labour, but requires 5 hours of additional wages to pay for the services of the cleaner, no additional surplus value is produced. The additional value produced and reflected in the wages of the worker is simply spent in exchange for the labour of the cleaner.

The only way that an additional surplus value could arise here would be if the cleaner undertook 10 hours of labour, and was paid wages of only 5 hours. In that case, the worker would have 10 hours of labour released to engage in productive activity, whilst their wages would only need to increase by 5 hours to cover the wages they pay to the cleaner. But, this would breach the normal conditions of commodity exchange taken as the basis of the analysis. What the worker buys in employing the cleaner is not their labour-power, which is what the capitalist buys in employing wage labour, but the product of their labour, i.e. 10 hours of cleaning as a service. What they must pay, therefore, is not the value of the cleaner's labour-power (5 hours), but the value of the commodity sold (10 hours) of cleaning labour service.

By including as productive labour any labour that saves the buyer time, which they can use for some other purpose, Storch thereby opens up the labour of anyone who produces such “leisure” as being productive.

“The police-man saves me the time of being my own gendarme, the soldier of defending myself, the government official of governing myself, the shoe cleaner of cleaning my shoes myself, the priest the time required for thinking, and so on.” (p 297)

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