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This article starts out by trying to demonstrate why the distinction between productive and unproductive labour (PUPL) is crucial, both for the analysis of the trajectory of capitalism in general and for an understanding of the peculiar features of late twentieth century capitalism. Subsequent sections provide the necessary clarification about the distinction between PUPL by focusing on the concepts ‘productive labour in general’ and ‘productive labour for capital’ and attempt to classify all major types of labour in capitalism accordingly. The essay also deals with thorny questions about the status of labour in the services sector and state provision of social services. The last section addresses some common criticisms found in the literature concerning Marx's distinction between productive and unproductive labour.
THE RENEWED INTEREST in the foundations of the Marxist
critique of political economy since the early seventies has
resulted in a closer examination of Marxs distinction
between productive and unproductive labour (henceforth PUPL).
This closer look has, however, given rise to serious debates on
questions of denition, on the criteria to be used and even on the
very desirability of such a distinction. The theoretical atmosphere
of the entire decade of the seventies, in particular, was after all
characterised by the controversy raging between the proponents
and the opponents of the so-called Sraffa-based critique of Marxs
theory of value. The various viewpoints in the more specic debate
on PUPL did not, to be sure, correspond in a strict way to the great
divide in the larger debate. Nevertheless, unsparing scrutiny of the
fundamentals was the sign of the times. We believe that the
particular debate concerning PUPL was abandoned at a point
where the issues under discussion were far from resolved. There
Productive and Unproductive
Labour: An Attempt at Clarification
and Classification
by Sungur Savran and E.Ahmet Tonak
This article starts out by trying to demonstrate why the distinction
between productive and unproductive labour (PUPL) is crucial, both
for the analysis of the trajectory of capitalism in general and for an
understanding of the peculiar features of late twentieth century
capitalism. Subsequent sections provide the necessary clarification
about the distinction between PUPL by focusing on the concepts
‘productive labour in general’ and ‘productive labour for capital’
and attempt to classify all major types of labour in capitalism
accordingly. The essay also deals with thorny questions about the
status of labour in the services sector and state provision of social
services. The last section addresses some common criticisms found
in the literature concerning Marx’s distinction between productive
and unproductive labour.
was, in our opinion, much confusion and misunderstanding
between the various sides with respect to the series of distinctions
on which the whole idea of a counterposition of productive to
unproductive labour is based. Much remained to be claried.
Moreover, at least for those of us who think the distinction PUPL
is essential to the analysis of capitalist accumulation, comprehensive
classication of all the major types of labour under capitalism is a
burning question, especially in the context of the recent increased
effort to develop an empirical analysis of the various facets of the
capitalist economy on the basis of Marxist categories.1 Hence we
face the twin tasks of clarification and classification.
This combined nature of our objective leads us to forgo a
polemical approach in putting forth our understanding of the
issue. It could, indeed, hardly be considered a fruitful way of
tackling the issues if we were to engage in a point by point
critical evaluation of all the different viewpoints defended by
the various sides to the debate. Nor is a survey of the issues
and/or debates the most productive way to take up the twin
tasks we pose ourselves. So in what follows we will attempt to
provide what we believe to be a systematic and precise, logically
sound and theoretically rigorous reconstruction of the
distinction PUPL, on the basis of which we will then proceed to
a classification of the major types of labour under capitalism.
We would like to point out, however, that this reconstruction
is so designed as to answer effectively and on logical grounds
the major strands of criticism addressed to the overall
conception of the distinction PUPL to be found in Marxs
work. Moreover, after having completed our presentation we
will explicitly take up what we perceive to be the major
criticisms and try to show that our conceptual scheme, which
is but a careful restatement of Marxs, is immune to the
arguments offered by way of criticism.
We believe that Marxs thinking on this issue is entirely
coherent. One can, to be sure, point to a careless mistake here
or there or to an occasional awkward formula, but the existence
of these can reasonably be attributed to the fact that many of
his manuscripts were not prepared for final publication by
himself. We will not be dealing with the charges, abundant in
the literature on the subject, with respect to inconsistencies in
his presentation of the issue, not only because that would again
take us away from our central objective, but also because,
irrespective of whether he himself was consistent or not, what
114 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 115
is more important is to see whether a logically and theoretically
consistent distinction between PUPL can be made starting out
from the foundations of the Marxist theory of value.2
In what follows, we will first try to point out why the
distinction PUPL is important, indeed crucial, both for the
analysis of the trajectory of capitalism in general and for an
understanding of the impact of some peculiar features of late
twentieth century capitalism on the accumulation process. We
will then proceed to clarify the distinction and the relationship
between the concepts productive labour in general and
productive labour for capital, a step that is methodologically
essential to a correct understanding of PUPL. Subsequent
sections will deal with all the major types of labour in a capitalist
socio-economic formation, ranging from self sufficient peasant
households, housework and petty commodity production to
hired domestic labour, production and circulation labour, in
order to concretize the content of the category productive
labour for capital. Separate sections will then be devoted to two
thorny questions, i.e. the status of labour in the services sector
and state provision of social services. A final section will take
up some common criticism to be found in the literature
concerning Marxs distinction between PUPL. As we have
already pointed out the purpose of that final section is not to
provide a critical survey of the existing literature, nor to engage
in polemics, but rather to provide some further clarication on
questions that have been raised in the discussion on PUPL since
the seventies.
Let us then start out with a discussion of the importance of
the distinction PUPL, since one aspect of the earlier debate has
centred precisely on whether there is any meaningful purpose
to be achieved by pursuing this distinction. We believe that far
from being esoteric and pointless, the distinction is crucial to
an adequate analysis of the trajectory of accumulation in
capitalist economies.
The Importance of the Distinction Between Productive and
Unproductive Labour
The capitalist economy is centred around an accumulation
process grounded in the self expansion of value through the
continuous production of surplus-value and its subsequent
reconversion into capital. The goal of the accumulation process
is not only the maintenance of the previously produced value
but also the creation and productive reinvestment of surplus-
value. However, in order to carry on this process of self
expansion, capital has to be continuously exchanged with a
certain kind of labour which can produce surplus-value. It is in
this sense that the distinction between PUPL is vital for
accumulation since only the exchange for productive labour
can satisfy one of the conditions for the reconversion of surplus-
value into capital. (Marx, 1976a: 1048)
While productive labour is essential for the production and
reinvestment of surplus-value, unproductive labour does not
create surplus-value and hence is not a source of accumulation.
Not only that but, as we shall see in the subsequent discussion,
the wages of unproductive workers have to be paid out of the
surplus-value created by productive workers so that the mass
of unproductive labour employed in a capitalist economy is in
fact a positive restraint on capital accumulation.3Hence, PUPL
have diametrically opposite consequences for what is the central
process of a capitalist economy, i.e. capital accumulation. At
this level of generality, then, the distinction PUPL has to be
conceived as a fundamental theoretical element of the Marxist
analysis of capitalism.
At a more concrete level, the division of total social labour
between productive and unproductive uses plays a major role
in the determination of the respective magnitude of various
crucial variables of the capitalist economy. Foremost among
these are variable capital, total surplus-value and consequently
the rate of surplus-value. Since variable capital is that element
of capital which produces more value than it itself contains, its
magnitude at the social level is determined not by the total wage
bill paid across the economy but exclusively by the wages of
productive workers. Surplus-value, on the other hand, consists
not only of its various component parts pocketed by the
different fractions of the propertied classes (such as profits,
interest, ground rent, etc.) but also includes the wages of
unproductive workers. Consequently, the rate of surplus-value,
being the ratio of surplus-value to variable capital, cannot be
calculated directly by recourse to national income categories
such as prots and wages.4A calculation of this latter consistent
with Marxist categories must carefully take into consideration
the distinction PUPL.5As Mandel points out (a) precise
116 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 117
definition of productive labour under capitalism is not only of
theoretical importance. It also has major implications for social
bookkeeping (calculation in value terms of the national
income). (Mandel, 1981: 46).
If the division of total social labour into productive and
unproductive uses influences the rate of surplus-value, it
immediately follows that it also has an impact on the rate of
profit, since the former rate is one of the fundamental
determinants of the latter. This result can be expressed in a
different manner: The fact that surplus-value is exclusively the
product of productive labour implies that an increase in the
proportion of unproductive to productive labour entails a
reduction in the mass of surplus-value produced and, ceteris
paribus, a fall in the rate of profit. This has the further
consequence that, at least within the falling rate of profit
framework, the distinction between PUPL is essential for an
understanding of capitalist crises.
The distinction is also relevant to the analysis of state
intervention and the redistribution of income that ows there-
from. This is because a correct evaluation of the net impact of
state intervention in the sphere of income distribution can only
be based on the precise identification of the specific sources of
state revenue. In other words, the calculation of the respective
shares of the state revenue derived from variable capital, on the
one hand, and from surplus-value, on the other, is crucial in
assessing the direction and magnitude of income distribution
flowing from state intervention. But we have just pointed out
that the magnitude of both variable capital and surplus-value
has as one of its determinants the division of total social labour
into PUPL. On the expenditure side as well the distinction is
There is another reason why the distinction is important.
For reasons that will become clear in the course of this article,
the status of labour employed in the service sector with respect
to the distinction PUPL is highly controversial. It is, on the
other hand, common knowledge that the so-called tertiary
sector accounts for an evergrowing part of total social labour
expended in all capitalist economies, whether advanced or
underdeveloped. Understanding what kind of impact this
growth of the service sector will have on the overall develop-
ment of capitalist economies, how, for instance, the rate of prot
will be affected, hinges on a correct classification of services
between the alternatives PUPL.
These, then, are the reasons why the PUPL distinction is
crucial to an understanding of the development of the capitalist
economy at a general level. There are, however, also reasons that
make the distinction relevant to an understanding of certain
recent trends peculiar to late twentieth century capitalism.
Foremost among these is, of course, the explosion of nancial
services giving rise to what is popularly, but somewhat mis-
leadingly, known as the casino economy. In addition to the
expansion of brokerage and banking activities due to the
proliferation of nancial instruments, the unprecedented growth
of pension, mutual and hedge funds and the international
integration of financial markets, the gradual demise of the so-
called welfare state has resulted in a tremendous growth of
insurance activities. These recent trends make it imperative to
understand the nature of the labour employed in financial
sectors (as a subset of circulation activities) in order to assess
the impact of this explosion on the accumulation of capital.
A second area where considerable expansion can be
observed is a further growth in consumer services, under the
combined impact of so-called globalization, technological
progress and changes in lifestyles. The explosion in domestic
and international broadcasting, the tremendous growth of
tourism and the catering business, new mass consumed forms
of sports and physical exercise organized along capitalist lines
are but the most salient examples of this kind of expansion. The
status of services with respect to the distinction PUPL is crucial
to an understanding of the positive and negative impact of the
expansion of consumer services on capital accumulation.
The recent expansion of consumer services is, after all, a
continuation of a trend well established for at least decades.
Qualitative change, on the other hand, can be said to have come
about in the area of business services as a combined result of
technological development, internationalization of capital and
a further progress in the division of labour within total social
capital. Alongside the explosion of telecommunication services
and electronic means of communication, activities such as
branding, patenting, marketing, advertising, information
related services, public relations services, human resources,
training, consultancy and legal services have all led to specific
sectors of activity growing at a rapid pace. These activities of
118 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 119
different natures have a differential impact on the process of
accumulation and the specific impact of each can only be
assessed on the basis of a correct understanding of both services
and the distinction between production and circulation in
relation to the distinction PUPL.
Another crucial recent trend obviously has to do with the
structural changes that have come about in the provision of what
are commonly regarded as social services, i.e. health, education,
housing etc. In this area, the bourgeoisie and its governments
have started a sustained drive towards the gradual privatisation
of activities which once belonged predominantly to the public
sector and the parallel commodification of those services that
were until recently provided by the state free of charge. As will
subsequently become clear, this implies the transformation of
the unproductive labour of state employees into the productive
labour of both the workers of private companies in question and
the employees of the public agencies that are practically
commercialized through the commodification of the services
that they provide. At the level of abstraction of this article, this
phenomenon increases, ceteris paribus, the magnitude of surplus-
value and thus acts as a counteracting tendency with respect to
the general increase in unproductive activities and the consequent
decline in the amount of productively investible surplus-value
observable in contemporary capitalism. The phenomenon of
privatization gives rise to many other important issues related
to the general welfare of working people, unemployment,
deunionization, the status of the employees of the agencies in
question, in short to many facets of class struggle in present-day
capitalist society. We submit that these issues are politically very
important but fall outside the scope of this paper.
Other novel features of late twentieth century capitalism
(some of them with deep historical roots) such as the
tremendous growth of subcontracting, the resurgence of the
putting out system even in the imperialist countries, the drastic
change in the necessary inventory kept due to just-in-time
systems and the accompanying change in storage magnitudes,
the redrudescence of hired domestic labour etc. all require
clarity on the question of the PUPL distinction.
To sum up, then, far from being useless, the categories
PUPL are essential to a clear understanding of the functioning
of the capitalist economy.7In what follows we shall try to
demonstrate that it is possible to draw a clear and lucid
conceptual distinction between the two categories which can
then provide the basis for a comprehensive classication of the
different types of labour to be found in a capitalist economy.
Productive Labour in General
The starting point for the discussion of the distinction between
PUPL has to be a definition of productive labour applicable to
all modes of production. It should be made clear from the outset
that this is not because productive labour in this sense is
identical with productive labour under the capitalist mode of
production. On the contrary, as we shall see in the next section,
the distinction between these two concepts, i.e. productive
labour in general and productive labour for capital, is vital for
an understanding of the functioning of the capitalist economy.
Ironically, however, it is a neglect of the concept productive
labour in general that has led astray so many contemporary
commentators on the question. It is because insufficient
attention has been paid to a general definition of productive
labour under all socio-economic formations that all economic
activities under capitalism itself have come to be instinctively
regarded as productive labour. Only through a clear under-
standing of the fact that productive labour for capital is a subset
of productive labour in general can one avoid this type of
theoretical impasse which leads to a total obliteration of the
distinction between PUPL under capitalism. This is a question
we will study in detail when we take up the criticisms directed
at Marxs approach in the last section of the article.
That the distinction between productive labour in general
and productive labour for capital is crucial for Marx is obvious
from the following passage:
Only bourgeois narrow-mindedness, which regards the
capitalist forms of production as absolute formshence as
eternal, natural forms of productioncan confuse the question
of what is productive labour from the standpoint of capital with
the question of what labour is productive in general, or what is
productive labour in general; and consequently fancy itself
very wise in giving the answer that all labour which produces
anything at all, which has any kind of result, is by that very fact
productive labour. (Marx, 1963: 393)8
120 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 121
But in order not to confuse the two concepts one has to have a
clear denition from the outset of productive labour in general
and this is what we shall first attempt to provide.
There are certain activities which, whatever the historical
form of social organization, have to be carried out in order to
assure biological and social reproduction of the members of
society and of the socio-economic formation itself. The
denition of productive labour in general presupposes a careful
distinction among the different types of such activities. The basic
set of activities, which all (or in some cases most) societies have
to carry out are the following: production, circulation, distribution
of the product (so-called income distribution), personal and
social consumption, and the reproduction of the social order.9
For our present purposes, these activities can rst be grouped
according to whether they involve the expenditure of labour
properly speaking. It is immediately clear that two of these
activities, i.e. consumption and distribution of the product, are
not activities that involve the expenditure of labour.10
Consumption, whether due to biological or historically
developed needs, is an activity which is common to all living
species and does not involve labour which is the differentia
specifica of the human race. Distribution of the product being
closely connected to the relations of production valid under an
historically given socio-economic formation is predicated upon
the expenditure of labour on the part of the direct producers
but is not itself an act which involves labour. The logical proof
of this is that the propertied classes, who to the extent that they
derive their means of existence exclusively from property
income are non-producers,11 also partake of the distribution
of the product. The latter concerns a social relationship
mediated by the product of labour activity.12
What is more complicated is the case of the other two activities,
that of circulation and that of the reproduction of the social order.
Circulation, in the strict sense of the term covering the sphere of
the various metamorphoses between the commodity-form and
the money-form, is an activity which has been an aspect of
economic life throughout all class societies. However, private
exchange and the circulation of commodities and of money come
into full force only under conditions of capitalist production:
Exchange, which is only of partial importance in pre-capitalist
class societies because an overwhelming portion of production is
the production of use-values and not of commodities, becomes
the necessary form of the socialization of private labour under
capitalism. As for activities directed to the reproduction of the
social order, these again acquire a specific significance in class
societies as opposed to primitive communal society. The state as
the public sphere of the reproduction of class domination with
its administrative, military and nancial apparatus, along with
religious institutions, is the locus where this type of activity is
organized and carried out.
Now it is clear that at least in the modern era a certain part of
the agents who carry out these activities of circulation and of the
reproduction of the social order are involved with labour of a
specific kind. The public employee working for the tax
administration or for local government, the bank clerk, the
employee of an insurance company, to bring up the most obvious
examples, no less toil away their working day than an industrial
or agricultural worker.13 However, the labour expended by the
former is of a different nature when compared with that expended
by the latter. The industrial and agricultural worker is involved
with the creation of use-values (i.e. objects which satisfy a certain
need, either in the sphere of consumption as articles for personal
consumption or in the sphere of production as inputs for
productive consumption) and (s)he does this through the
transformation of nature. This is, in fact, what distinguishes the
last type of activity under discussion, that of production, from
the rest of all other social activities: Production is the
appropriation of nature on the part of an individual with and
through a definite form of society (Marx, 1973: 87). Those
engaged in production, in other words, mediate the relationship
of society to nature. Those, on the other hand, who carry out,
within the context of a given social division of labour, the
activities of circulation and the reproduction of the social order,
simply execute tasks which ow from a historically determined set
of socio-economic relations among human beings within a
denite society. Production is radically different from all other
types of activities in that it is the unique activity which, through
an intercourse with nature, provides human society with the
indispensable material elements of its reproduction. No society
can live on the edicts of kings or on contracts of life insurance
without drawing from nature the means of its livelihood. And
since it is only through production that these means are acquired,
only labour which is engaged in production in this specifically
materialist sense can be regarded as productive labour in general.
122 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 123
Once human activities are classied accordingly (see Figure 1), it
immediately becomes obvious that certain types of activities can
under no type of social organization be regarded as productive
labour. Social agents who carry out tasks relating exclusively to
the reproduction of the social order or to the circulation of
commodities and of money are unproductive by definition. The
list of such agents is a long one but we should note in passing that
priests and all other religious officials, kings, presidents and
politicians, public employees of the administrative and nancial
organs of the state, judges, lawyers and all juridical professionals,
generals and soldiers, policemen and prison wardens, to the
extent that they are engaged in labour at all, are unproductive
labourers in all types of social organizations.
Productive Labour for Capital
The definition of productive labour in general provides only
the starting point for an examination of the distinction between
PUPL under the relations of the capitalist mode of production.
For as a historically determined mode of production, capitalism
is first and foremost characterized by the production of
commodities and the production of surplus-value. Within this
particular formation, production is only carried on with a view
to the self-expansion of capital, that is the expansion of capital
through the production and appropriation of surplus-value
produced by the direct producer, i.e. the wage-labourer.
Activities of Human Beings
Labour Non-Labour
Production Circulation Distribution of the Product
and Reproduction (of income) and Personal
of the Social Order and Social Consumption
Productive Labour Unproductive Labour
in General
Figure 1.
Hence, a denition of productive labour based on the concrete
character of the labour spent in the production process is
manifestly insufficient within the context of capitalism. The result
of capitalist production is not simply use-value, but specically
exchange-value and surplus-value. The capitalist production
process is not a simple labour process, but much more decisively
a process of valorization, of self-expansion, the latter subsuming
the former under its requirements. In Marxs words:
Since the immediate purposes and the authentic product of
capitalist production is surplus-value, labour is only productive,
and an exponent of labour-power is only a productive worker,
if it or he creates surplus-value directly, i.e. the only productive
labour is that which is directly consumed in the course of
production for the valorization of capital. (Marx 1976a: 1938)
Hence, the specific nature of the capital relation provides the
clue to the distinction between PUPL from the standpoint of
capital. Productive labour for capital is that labour which
produces surplus-value.14 In other words, productive labour
within the context of a determined mode of production cannot
be defined solely on the basis of the interaction of humanity
with nature. A meaningful definition has to incorporate, along
with this general determination, characteristics which are
specific to the social relations that are dominant within that
mode of production.15
This simple denition, however, is only a starting point since
many problems and confusions arise once the distinction is
applied to more concrete phenomena. It is, nonetheless, the
indispensable foundation on which alone can be based an
adequate discussion of the distinction in question. It also
immediately shows why productive labour for capital is, as we
have already noted, a subset of productive labour in general.
Once we remind ourselves that surplus-value can only be
produced in the immediate process of production and has no
other source, it becomes obvious that only labour which is
productive in general, that is only labour which produces use-
values through the purposeful transformation and appropriation
of nature, can produce surplus-value. In other words, the quality
of being productive in general is a necessary (but not sufficient)
condition for labour to be productive for capital (the sufficient
condition is being productive of surplus-value).16
124 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 125
The criterion of the production of surplus-value provides
us with certain guidelines in our quest for a more detailed and
concrete distinction between PUPL. Several types of labour can
immediately be shown to be irrelevant to this distinction. First
of all, it is obvious that labour expended with the sole purpose
of producing use-values, that is labour not engaged in the
production of commodities, cannot be regarded as productive
labour from the standpoint of capital for the very simple reason
that the production of surplus-value is predicated upon the
production and exchange of commodities. Hence, the labour
of self-sufficient peasant households or housework under
capitalism cannot serve as productive labour.17
Secondly, the criterion of the production of surplus-value
also rules out the labour of petty commodity producers. Petty
commodity production is, by definition, based on the
ownership of the means of production by the direct producers
themselves and hence on the exchange of the products of their
labour rather than the sale of their labour-power. Surplus-value
can only be produced if labour-power is sold as a commodity
and the buyer of this specific commodity consumes its unique
use-value, i.e. the capacity to produce more value than it
embodies. Hence, only labour which is predicated upon the
sale of labour-power as a commodity can serve as productive
labour under capitalism. This removes the labour of the artisan
and of the small holding peasant outside the picture in a
discussion of PUPL under capitalism.
Likewise, of the different methods of outsourcing, more and
more a feature of present-day capitalism, that based on the
organization of the producers (predominantly womens and
childrens) labour at home (similar to the putting out system
of capitalism at its dawn) is not subsumed under a capitalist
form per se, even in those cases where the instruments of labour
and raw materials are provided by the capitalist. Hence labour
so expended is not productive in the capitalist sense. Sub-
contracting, on the other hand, still another form of
outsourcing, is usually based on the activities of capitalist rms,
albeit small, and the labour involved here is productive or
unproductive, depending on the specic type of activity carried
out (see below).
Even the sale of labour-power, however, is not a sufficient
condition for the existence of productive labour. And here we
come to the distinction PUPL properly speaking. For this, one
should also make a distinction between labour exchanged
against capital, on the one hand, and that exchanged against
revenue, on the other. This distinction was, in fact, the point
around which the original debate on the definition of
productive labour turned in the late 18th and throughout the
19th centuries. Without going into the intricacies of that debate,
the distinction can be expressed in a straightforward manner
through the use of the general formula for the circuit of capital
and of revenue.
The formula for the circuit of capital, M – C … P … C' – M'
is the most general representation of the process of self-
expansion (the process of valorization) of capital. Within the
framework of this general representation it is easy to see that
labour-power as a commodity (C) is exchanged with a part of M
(money functioning as capital): that is, it is exchanged against
capital. Subsequently, in the process of production (represented
by P) it not only reproduces the equivalent of its original value
but also produces a new magnitude of value appropriated by
capital as surplus-value.
This is the type of relationship between labour-power and
capital which transforms labour into productive labour for
capital. In Marxs words:
Productive labour is exchanged directly for money as capital,
i.e. for money which is intrinsically capital, which is destined
to function as capital. Thus productive labour is labour which
for the worker only reproduces the value of his labour-power
as determined beforehand, while as a value-creating activity it
valorizes capital and confronts the worker with the values so
created and transformed into capital. The specific relationship
between objectified and living labour that converts the former
into capital also turns the latter into productive labour.
(Marx, 1976: 1043)
However, this is not the only possible type of exchange between
labour-power and money (in other words, it is not the only
possible type of the sale of labour-power). Consider the next
period of production: the surplus-value appropriated by capital
(i.e. M' minus M) is now reconverted into capital (that is the
sense in which Marx in the above quotation says that it confronts
the worker). But not the entire surplus-value produced is
converted into capital; even abstracting from the appropriation
126 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 127
of certain portions of it by other capitalists and landlords in the
form of interest, commercial prot, ground rent, etc., a certain
part of it is, of necessity, converted into revenue for the industrial
capitalists with the purpose of consumption. Now this revenue
can be consumed in different ways: it can either be spent on
articles of consumption of all sorts, and/or it can be used to
employ workers (domestic servants, cooks, drivers, gardeners,
etc.) to make life more comfortable for the capitalists and their
families. In the former case, capitalists revenue is exchanged
against commodities, while in the latter it is exchanged against
labour-power. Hence we have here a second type of exchange
between money and labour-power as a commodity. (Marx,
1976a: 1041) This type of exchange, however, in contradistinction
to the exchange of labour-power against capital, does not create
a surplus-value for the capitalist. The use-value of the labour-
power in question is consumed in the form of personal service
by the capitalist and his family. The product of the labour does
not take the form of a commodity which can then be converted
into money incorporating surplus-value. Hence, labour-power
exchanged against revenue, as opposed to that exchanged against
capital, does not produce surplus-value and is, therefore,
unproductive from the standpoint of capital. Thirdly, therefore,
only labour-power exchanged against capital can serve as the
source of productive labour under capitalism.
One can, of course, see right away why this specific
distinction was of such great importance to classical political
economy (Adam Smith, in particular, but also Ricardo and
others). The use of domestic servants was quite widespread in
that early period of the development of capitalism.18 Moreover,
it was a much more common practice among landlords and the
nobility than among the more frugal manufacturer of early
capitalism. Classical political economy found the distinction
particularly useful as an instrument in its attack on landed
interests on behalf of the industrial bourgeoisie. Things have
become a bit more complex since then: While the use of
domestic servants is still a structural social feature of under-
developed countries, it had been diminishing to a considerable
extent in the imperialist heartlands until recently, when it started
to grow again with the rise of unemployment and social
inequality. Whatever the present scale of hired domestic service,
though, this distinction between labour exchanged against
capital and labour exchanged against revenue has now lost its
overpowering importance in favour of another problem, to
which we now turn.
The distinction exchange with capital/exchange with revenue
does not exhaust the difference between PUPL. At the stage we
have reached, the criteria for productive labour can be
summarized as (1) that of commodity production, (2) that of
the sale of labour-power, and (3) that of the exchange of labour-
power against capital as opposed to its exchange against
revenue. Yet these three conditions are still not sufficient to
guarantee the production of surplus-value. Put in another way,
there may be an important range of cases in which the sale of
labour-power does not result in the production of surplus-
value, and hence labour is not transformed into productive
labour, even though these three conditions may have come
together. The secret of the paradox lies, of course, in the
distinction between production and circulation.
Let us go back to the circuit of capital, M – C … P … C' – M'.
In order to complete this circuit and reproduce itself, capital has
to go through a certain number of metamorphoses or changes of
form; at first, it appears in the form of money capital ready to
buy labour power and the elements of constant capital; then with
the purchase of these elements of capital, it is converted into
productive capital which serves as the basis at once of the labour
process and the process of valorization of capital through which
commodities of a higher value are produced by the extraction
of surplus labour from the workers; these commodities are then
thrown onto the market where capital appears as commodity
capital. Once these commodities are sold on the market, the
whole process returns to its starting point, capital is once again
converted into money capital, expanded of course by the amount
of surplus-value extracted, ready to start the process anew. Since
in order to expand, capital has to go through this whole process,
Marx calls these forms of appearance of the one and the same
capital its functional forms.
Now, the point which has to be noted carefully is that it is
only during a single phase of this process, that of productive
capital, that surplus-value is produced. In the other moments of
this constant metamorphosis of capital, there is only a change
of form between commodities and money, and hence, no
creation of value or of surplus-value. Hence, the tasks carried
out in these specific moments of the overall process do not
pertain to production per se and are, therefore, unproductive
128 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 129
circulation tasks by definition. In practice, the same worker
may carry out both productive and unproductive tasks and this
does cause difficulties of measurement at an empirical level. But
at the conceptual level there exists a clear and unambiguous
distinction between the two types of activity. Moreover, the
empirical measurement aspect is itself simplified by a certain
type of division of labour among capitals with the advance of
In the course of historical development, different units of
capital specialize on an increasing scale in the different functions
carried out originally by the same capital in its diverse
functional forms. It is thus that a certain part of the functions
of money capital is taken over by interest bearing capital
(commercial and investment banks, brokerage rms, mortgage
companies, insurance and reassurance companies, etc.) and
the function of commodity capital by commercial capital
(wholesale merchants, department stores, other large outlets,
retailers etc.). In order to carry out these tasks, themselves
necessary and integral parts of the overall process of the
reproduction of capital, these units of capital have to employ
wage workers. The question immediately arises: are these
workers productive workers and is their labour productive?
The whole analysis presented in this paper points to a negative
answer to this question.
The activities carried out by these workers are purely
circulation activities and therefore by their very nature
nonproductive in the general sense. Moreover, the analysis of
the circuit of capital has already shown us that these workers,
because they are engaged in circulation tasks, or more precisely
to the extent that they are engaged in circulation tasks, do not
produce surplus-value. The conclusion, then, is inevitable:
Workers employed by capital working in the sphere of
circulation are unproductive as is their labour. In Marxs words:
If by a division of labour a function, unproductive in itself
although a necessary element of reproduction is transformed
from an incidental occupation of many into the exclusive
occupation of a few, into their special business, the nature of
the function itself has not changed. (Marx, 1956: 134)
Those who regard circulation tasks as productive because these
tasks are necessary for the overall process of reproduction seem
to forget that the necessity of certain tasks under certain types
of social organization is no sound proof of their productive
nature. Policemen are no less necessary for the capitalist state
in order to preserve the much cherished law and order of
bourgeois society, but no one (including those authors who
regard circulation activities as productive) considers them to
be productive. In the same vein, circulation activities in the
strict sense of the term are not an inseparable ingredient of
production in general but are only necessary under the given
conditions of capitalism and its indissociable companion,
generalized commodity production. Now, however necessary
circulation may be for capitalism, however important the
fetishistic forms of exchange, money, credit, etc. for this type
of economy, it should be remembered that all this is grounded
in the production of surplus-value. And capital cannot
appropriate as surplus-value but a certain portion of the
material wealth of society produced in a certain period. No
society, not even capitalist society despite its fetishized
relationships, can increase its wealth, and thereby the amount
of products to be distributed, by changing the form of this
wealth into money and then back into commodities. The labour
so expended is, in fact, an additional social cost of production
due to the in-built wastefulness of capitalism. It is no less a drain
on the social surplus produced in the immediate production
process. Marx expresses this idea in the following manner:
(A buying and selling) agent expends his labour-power and
labour-time in the operations of C – M and M– C. And he
makes his living in that way, just as another does by spinning
or by making pills. He performs a necessary function, because
the process of reproduction itself includes unproductive
functions. He works as well as the next man but intrinsically
his labour creates neither value nor product. He belongs himself
to the faux frais of production. His usefulness does not consist
in transforming an unproductive function into a productive
one, nor unproductive into productive labour. It would be a
miracle if such a transformation could be accomplished by the
mere transfer of a function. (Marx, 1956: 1345)
It is true that certain aspects of circulation (by allowing, for
instance, a more rapid turnover of capital) can contribute to
an overall increase in production. This increase in production
130 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 131
nds its specically capitalist expression in the additional mass
of surplus-value produced by the workers employed in
production thanks to this more rapid turnover. This additional
amount of surplus-value is thus the product of the labour of
these production workers. Were it to be equally attributed, even
indirectly, to the productivity of the workers of the sphere of
circulation, we would be face to face with a blatant case of
double counting because the one and the same increase in
surplus-value would then have been attributed to two distinct
sets of workers. What has in fact happened is the following:
circulation workers, through their specic activities, have simply
made an additional amount of capital available for valorization
by releasing this amount from the unproductive tasks of
circulation (which is itself testimony that circulation tasks are
unproductive). Their specic contribution is, therefore, that of
having added to the overall amount of money functioning as
capital. This being the case, to regard the activities of circulation
workers as productive would simply amount to attributing the
magical power of productivity to objectified labour and to the
fetishized category of capital. In other words, a more rapid
turnover of capital implies the existence of more capital in a
given period of time available for exploiting workers in the
production process: The surplus-value additionally created is
exclusively the product of the labour of these production
workers in the same manner as the surplus-value created in the
absence of this more rapid turnover of capital.
Two brief remarks are in order before we draw the
conclusions of this distinction between the spheres of
production and circulation. First, transportation and storage
activities should in no way be conflated with the sphere of
circulation.19 These are essentially a necessary element of the
production process itself under any form of social production
and, a fortiori, in those socio-economic formations based on
an advanced social and geographic division of labour.20 No
consumer can consume, nor a producer use as an input, a
commodity produced in another part of the world but not
transported to where it is to be put to use. Hence, to the extent
that transportation is the indispensable final stage of
production, the labour employed in this sector of activity is
productive labour (in so far, of course, as it is employed by
capital).21 However, those transportation and storage activities
which are due purely to motives peculiar to circulation (e.g.
speculation or re-exportation due to differential government
regulation) are immaterial to the production process and the
labour employed therein counts as unproductive.
Secondly, it is obvious that the workers employed by capital
in the sphere of circulation make it possible for this fraction of
capital to pocket profits. It is in fact this aspect of the matter
which complicates the question by making it seem that these
workers produce surplus-value for their respective capitalists.
The fact of the matter is that the profit obtained by these
capitalists (commercial profit and interest) is simply a portion
of the total surplus-value produced in the sphere of production.
What is more, even the wages of the workers employed by
circulation capital are themselves paid out of surplus-value
within the immediate process of production.
The distinction between production capital and circulation
capital nally gives us the sufficient condition for the denition
of productive labour. All labour that is exchanged against capital
employed in the sphere of production is productive for capital. We
have thus, through a series of concrete distinctions concerning
use-value production vs. commodity production, exchange of
commodities vs. exchange of labour-power, exchange against
revenue vs. exchange against capital, and nally, exchange against
circulation capital vs. exchange against production capital
reached our original definition of production labour under
capitalism as labour that produces surplus-value for capital.
It is our opinion that this type of procedure in defining
productive as opposed to unproductive labour has the merit of
avoiding a confusion between criteria of different orders. The
criterion of the production of surplus-value is the absolute
guiding principle in a discussion of productive labour under
capitalism. Other criteria such as exchange against revenue vs.
exchange against capital or circulation vs. production are of a
different order: They are, each of them, only partial in the sense
that none of them is, on its own, a sufficient condition for a
comprehensive definition of productive labour and un-
productive labour.
The foregoing discussion enables us to classify labour carried
out under different types of social and technical relations within
a concrete, historically given capitalist economy. Figure 2,
summing up the argument thus far, shows us that a large
portion of the total labour of society, although necessary for
the reproduction of the system in its totality, does not perform
132 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 133
productive labour for capital and hence does not contribute
directly to the accumulation process.
Figure 2 should be of some assistance in gaining conceptual
clarity on the question of the distinction between PUPL.
However, there are still other categories of workers within
capitalist society which we have not discussed. Two of these
categories stand out by the sheer importance of their size and by
the confusion in the literature concerning their status vis-à-vis
the distinction under discussion: These are, first, workers in
the service sector and, secondly, wage labourers employed by
the state. We will now discuss these two categories in turn.
The Problem of Services
One of the most contentious areas in the discussion of PUPL
has always been the treatment of services. Even authors who
otherwise are in perfect agreement on other aspects of the
question have been found to be at loggerheads on this specific
It is our contention that a major part of the confusion and
misunderstanding concerning the status of services is due to
the ambiguity of the concept service itself. This concept, as we
Production of Production of
Use-Values Commodities
Petty Commodity Production based
Production on Wage-Labour
Wage-Labour paid Wage-Labour employed
out of revenue by capital
Workers in Circulation Workers in production
and transportation
Productive Labour
for Capital
Figure 2.
(domestic servants, cooks,
gardeners, chauffeurs
body-guards, etc.)
(employees of banks, insurance
and mortgage companies,
commercial workers)
(self-subsistence farming,
housework, etc.)
(artisans, smallholding
peasants, etc.)
shall shortly see, designates two very different types of things
and failure to distinguish between the two leads to errors and
confusion. In fact, the problem goes all the way back to Adam
Smith and that is where we propose to begin in order to clarify
the problem.
It is widely known that there are two easily distinguishable
denitions of productive labour in Smiths work. The rst one,
quoted below, puts a stress on capitalist social relations in a
characteristically Smithian fashion:
(T)he labour of a manufacturer adds, generally, to the value
of the materials which he works upon, that of his own
maintenance, and of his masters prot. The labour of a menial
servant, on the contrary, adds to the value of nothing. Though
the manufacturer has his wages advanced to him by his master,
he, in reality, costs him no expense, the value of those wages
being generally restored, together with a prot, in the improved
value of the subject upon which his labour is bestowed. But the
maintenance of a menial servant never is restored. A man grows
rich by employing a multitude of manufacturers: he grows poor,
by maintaining a multitude of menial servants (Smith,
1976: 351).23
Smiths second definition, however, emphasized the intrinsic
quality of the labour in question:
(T)he labour of the manufacturer xes or realizes itself in some
particular subject or vendible commodity, which lasts for some
time at least after the labour is past. It is, as it were, a certain
quantity of labour stocked and stored up to be employed, if
necessary, upon 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 realize itself in any
particular subject or vendible commodity. His services generally
perish in the very instance of their performance, and seldom
leave any trace or value behind them, for which an equal quantity
of service could afterwards be procured (Smith, 1976: 3512).
Marx was of course quick in pointing out the error in the second
definition: The material aspect of the product of labour or the
134 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 135
concrete content of the labour itself has nothing to do with the
denition of productive labour (so long, of course, as the labour
in question produces a use value through the appropriation of
(T)he designation of labour as productive labour has
absolutely nothing to do with the determinate content of the
labour, its special utility, or the particular use in which it
manifests. The same kind of labour may be productive or
unproductive. (Marx, 1963: 401)24
So long as the labour in question transforms a particular aspect
of nature with the purpose of satisfying a need, so long, that is,
this activity is an aspect of production in general, labour engaged
in such a process can, if it is employed by capital, serve as
productive labour. This implies that activities that are
commonly regarded as services, such as education, health
provision, catering, art performance, hairdressing, etc. can also
be the basis of the extraction of surplus-value and, therefore,
of the existence of productive labour. In Marxs words:
The only worker who is productive is one who produces
surplus-value for the capitalist, or in other words contributes
towards the self-valorization of capital. If we may take an
example from outside the sphere of material production, a
schoolmaster is a productive worker when, in addition to
belabouring the heads of pupils, he works himself into the
ground to enrich the owner of the school. That the latter has
laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of a sausage
factory, makes no difference to the relation. (Marx, 1976b: 644)
This criticism of Marx against the second denition of Smith is
widely acknowledged to be valid. What is generally disregarded,
however, is the fact that in this second denition Smith treats as
identical two different concepts of service. In order to see this,
let us go back and read the crucial sentence which embodies this
The labour of the menial servant, on the contrary,
does not x or realize itself in any particular subject or vendible
commodity. Smith is here talking of two different things at once.
On the one hand, he is talking about a denite social relationship:
The concept menial servant implies that the labourer in
question is connected to his/her master within a definite
relationship, i.e. the exchange of his/her labour-power against
the revenue of the master. On the other hand, he is talking about
the nature of the product of the labourer in question, i.e. about
the fact that a service is not materialized in an object. His
formulation implies that those two very different things are
necessarily related as if only menial servants could provide
services and as if they could provide nothing but services. It is
obvious that there is no such necessary relationship. Menial
servants can produce material products; for instance, a wealthy
person may employ a tailor on a permanent basis. The tailor in
this case will not be producing surplus-value not because the
product of his labour is intangible but because this product is
not sold as a commodity. But much more important than this
somewhat marginal possibility is the fact that services can be
provided not only by menial servants but also by wage workers
employed by capitalists. We in this age of the increasing tertiar-
ization of capitalist economies should certainly know better.
Unfortunately, errors are obstinate. This conflation of the
two meanings of the term services was later to be repeated by
many Marxists, leading them to a rejection of the possibility of
conceiving labour employed in services as productive (and this
despite Marxs numerous warnings to the contrary). A striking
example is to be found in Poulantzas discussion of PUPL.
Also to be considered as unproductive labour is that taking the
form of services, whose products and activities are directly
consumed as use-values and which are not exchanged against
capital but rather against revenue or income . (Poulantzas,
1975: 213)25
It is obvious that Poulantzas commits the same error as Smith.
That is, he imagines a necessary connection between the
immaterial nature of the product of labour and the specific
social relationship deriving from the fact that wages are being
paid out of revenue. The social relationship in question
immediately implies that the labour expended is unproductive;
the false necessary connection then leads to the corollary that all
labour which provides services, even when it is expended within
the framework of a capitalist firm, is unproductive.26
Having identied the source of the confusion, let us now try
to define the concept services in a rigorous manner. The first
thing to be noted is that in the case of a domestic servant etc.,
136 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 137
what is exchanged for money (for a wage) is labour-power itself,
while in the case of capitalistically organized services (a private
school, a hotel etc.) the service is the product of labour and
not labour-power. In other words, the service is a commodity
as good as any material object.27
This is totally consistent with a second point which goes to
reinforce the first. It is not only labour but numerous other
inputs which go into the production of a service: For instance,
a person who has a hair cut buys not only the labour time of the
barber but also scissors time, chair time, mirror time, so to
speakso many material inputs without which the service
could not have been produced. Thirdly, not only on the input
side but equally on the output side a service is not made up of
only labour: what are commonly called services are more often
than not materialized in a good of corporeal qualities; e.g. a
beef Stroganov, a clean hotel bed, a cleaned coat instead of a
dirty one, etc.
Hence, what denes a service is not the fact of buying either
the labour-power or the labour of the worker in question. What
defines it is the simultaneity of production and consumption,
independently of the material form or otherwise of the
commodity, that is of the product of labour.28
Since what is sold is therefore a commodity, the consumption
point of view is irrelevant to the discussion of the distinction
PUPL. If the correct point of view, that of production, is taken,
it can immediately be seen that the labour-power of the service
worker is bought (and hence his/her wages paid) not by the
customer-consumer but by the capitalist who organizes the
production of services and that these workers produce surplus-
value. Labour so expended is obviously productive labour.
This whole discussion implies that the recent growth in
consumer services (with the exception naturally of financial
services, e.g. credit cards) should in no way be regarded as a
growth in the share of unproductive labour in total social
labour. The case of business services is more complicated, the
status of each of these depending on whether the service in
question is one relating to a productive function or to a
circulation activity. Clear examples of the former are human
resource and training services (but not temp agencies or head
hunters) and some but not all information services. As to the
latter, the most clear cut cases are of course marketing,
advertising and financial consultancy services.
State Employees
The secular expansion of the state sector both in the imperialist
and in the dependent, underdeveloped regions of the capitalist
world makes imperative an assessment of the nature of the
labour of state employees. Fortunately, the criteria we have thus
far proposed for the distinction PUPL provide sufficient basis
for a solid evaluation of this question.
Any discussion concerning the nature of the labour of state
employees has to start out by noting the diversity of state
activities under capitalism. For our present purposes, the
various activities of the state can be regrouped under three
headings. There are, first, those which relate exclusively to the
reproduction of the social order, such as the activities of the
administrative bureaucracy of central and local government,
the military, the courts, the police force, the prison system, etc.
The second type of activity is the organization of production
activities in the framework of corporations and companies
owned wholly or partially by the state, central or local. Finally,
there is a growing section of state activities directed to the
provision of social services, services which are related to the
so-called Welfare State, i.e. education, health, housing, etc.
Given our earlier criteria for the definition of productive
labour, it is quite easy to identify the nature of the labour of
state employees in these three areas (although, of course, at a
more concrete level there are bound to come up complex
border line cases which do not fit easily into any one of these
groups). Those employees who carry out tasks which are
directly related to the production of the social order are
unproductive labourers by definition. Their labour is not
productive in the general sense, as we have seen. It does not act
upon nature to transform certain aspects into use-values with
a view to satisfying human needs, directly or indirectly. The
tasks these people carry out are meant to serve the survival and
reproduction of a conflict ridden society based on class
exploitation and gender and racial oppression. The wages and
salaries of people so employed should therefore be simply
regarded as the faux frais of class society, in this case of
In order to be able to assess the nature of the labour of the
second group of state employees, it is necessary to understand
that, whatever other differences may exist between production
138 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 139
organized by private capital and that organized within the state
sector, there is no difference whatsoever from the point of view
of the production of surplus-value. State enterprises are
capitalist enterprises which employ workers in order to organize
a labour process with a view to extract surplus-value. Political
tampering with the prices of their output, overmanning for
political purposes, chronic losses and similar phenomena which
distinguish the behaviour of state enterprises from private
capitalist firms do not, in the least, change the fact that these
are capitalist rms which produce commodities on the basis of
the exploitation of wage labour, whether the surplus-value thus
produced is pocketed by the state enterprises themselves or by
other capitalists. If this is the case, it follows that workers
employed by state enterprises in the production sphere should
be considered, exactly like those employed by private firms, as
productive labourers.
The most difficult case to deal with is the third category. On
the one hand, social services are (usually) not sold as
commodities on the market and therefore the national
education system or the national health service of a capitalist
country cannot be regarded as capitalist enterprises.
Consequently, the workers they employ cannot be classified as
productive labourers. On the other hand, teachers, doctors,
nurses and other health workers do produce use-values
(services) with a view to the satisfaction of human needs and
are, in that sense, in a different position than those wage-
labourers (such as prison wardens or tax-collectors) whose
exclusive task is the reproduction of the existing social order.
Thus, as opposed to the latter whose labour is unproductive by
definition (because it is not an element of productive labour in
general), the labour of the former (that is of healthworkers, etc.)
is unproductive in a contingent sense, as a result of the nature of
the social relationship within which their labour is organized.
That is to say, the labour of a tax-collector cannot be considered
to be productive under any type of social organization, while
the labour of the health worker can, depending on the
circumstances of its expenditure, be productive or
unproductive. The former is the case when medical services are
so organized as to be sold on the market and are thereby
transformed into commodities that bring the owner of the
hospital a prot. Under such circumstances, the hospital, clinic
etc. become capitalist rms and the labour of the health workers
becomes productive. The problem becomes identical with that
of defining the nature of the labour of workers in the
capitalistically organized service sector, the sole difference due
to the different nature of the employer (state vs. private) being,
as we have just seen, irrelevant to the question we are
The foregoing has certain implications concerning recent
trends in capitalist societies. The widespread assault on the so-
called welfare state has resulted in a shift from the unproductive
labour of state employees producing public services free of
charge for the recipient to the productive labour of the
employees of private hospitals, schools etc. in the case of the
privatisation of social services. As for the practice of social
services being offered not free of charge but on the basis of fees,
tuition etc., the more the fees in question come closer to market
or shadow prices of the service in question, the closer the
hospital, school, university etc., in question approximates to a
capitalist enterprise and the more the employees of such
establishments become productive labourers. The point after
which this becomes the case is a question of empirical
methodology for which different criteria can be offered but the
choice between these criteria need not detain us in the context
of this article.
Hence, the status of the labour of wage workers engaged in
the provision of social services has to be decided on the basis
of concrete social conditions which may differ from one country
or from one period to another.
Some Misconceptions Regarding Productive and
Unproductive Labour
As we stated at the outset, a general survey of the literature on
PUPL lies outside the scope of this article. More relevant for
our purposes are the major types of criticism addressed to
Marxs conception of this distinction, since this conception is
what lies at the basis of our own attempt at classification. To
attempt to tackle all the different types of criticism directed at
Marxs conception would require a detailed point by point
response which can only be the subject of another article. What
we intend to do in this section instead is to take up the two most
important areas where the controversy has concentrated, i.e.
140 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 141
the characterization of circulation activities and the position of
those workers whose activities have an indirect impact on the
mass and rate of surplus-value. Most, if not all, of the issues
raised by the critics are directly or indirectly related to these
two areas so that an examination of these will provide us with
the opportunity to touch upon the most sensitive aspects of an
involved and complex controversy. We will not refer to specic
authors as many of the critics share common positions on these
questions although their argumentation may vary in detail.29
To take up the question of circulation activities first, the
position of many critics on this issue is that what are commonly
regarded as circulation activities are no different in nature from
production activities and that therefore to classify them as
unproductive is unwarranted. There are several arguments put
forward in order to substantiate this view. Let us take them up
one by one.
The first argument is that circulation workers contribute in
their own way to the production of use-values. An example
cited is that of salespeople who carry out tasks such as
classication and display of available commodities, provision of
knowledge and guidance to the consumer etc. This argument
is based on a misunderstanding with respect to what activities
are considered circulation activities by the proponents of a
rigorous distinction between production and circulation. It is
true to say (and Marx himself said it on so many occasions) that
any activity which is a necessary component of the process
whereby the consumer gains access to the object of
consumption should be considered to be a productive activity.
But precisely because this activity is a necessary link in the chain
between the point of production and the consumer, it is part of
the production process on an equal footing for instance with
transportation. The sphere of circulation is restricted to those
activities which are instrumental exclusively in the change of
form between commodities and money. At a conceptual level,
those aspects of sales activity which are necessary for the
completion of the chain from producer to consumer can quite
clearly be distinguished from pure circulation activities. The
best example would be the function of cashiers. Their whole
activity relates to sale and purchase and is by no means a
necessary link in the chain. (Any recording necessary for
purposes of social bookkeeping could be carried out in
alternative ways, e.g. through computers the consumers them-
selves use.) The cashier is of course one example among many
since an overwhelming part of the functions of the personnel
in any capitalist commercial enterprise relates to pure circula-
tion activities. It is true that at the empirical level some difficulty
may arise when calculating the ratio of production activities to
circulation activities in commercial enterprises, but at a
conceptual level the distinction is crystal clear. And that is all
that is needed for our present purposes. (The careful reader will
already have noted that when we discussed above the status of
workers employed by circulation capital, we explicitly stated
that these workers to the extent that they are engaged in
circulation tasks, do not produce surplus-value.)
A second argument in favour of considering circulation
activities as productive is to contend that these activities are
necessary in all societies, thereby implying that they should be
considered productive. Leaving aside for the moment the
tenuous connection between the premise and the conclusion
(to which we will return in another context below), it can be said
that this argument of universality is in fact a more general and
theoretical expression of the misunderstanding concerning the
distinction between production and circulation which we
pointed out with respect to the first argument. The idea that
circulation is necessary in all types of societies (strictly speaking,
one should restrict this statement to those societies with an
advanced division of labour) obviously refers to the indisputable
fact that in every such society there arises the inevitable necessity
of flows of use-values between the different branches of
production and between producers and consumers. But unless
one ascribes immutability to capitalist forms of production and
distribution, there is no reason to suppose that this ow of use-
values will necessarily assume in all societies the form of the
purchase and the sale of commodities. Whatever ones views on
the efficiency and desirability of central planning, it is surely not
debatable that this is a possible alternative form of the
interrelationships among the different branches of economic
activity. The error in question is hence transparent: this type of
criticism confuses and conflates in an unjustifiable manner the
circulation of use-values and the circulation of commodities,
money and capital. The former is certainly a necessary aspect of
production in all advanced socio-economic structures; the latter
is historically transitory and, what is more important, involves
much more than the provision of supplies to the various
142 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 143
branches and to consumersin fact, taken in its pure form, it
is a totally different type of activity which concentrates exclusively
on change of form.
While this last argument contends that circulation should
be treated on a par with production because it is necessary in
all kinds of advanced social formations, there is another line of
reasoning which accepts the idea that pure circulation in Marxs
sense (i.e. circulation of commodities, money and capital) is
peculiar to the capitalist economy, but then proceeds to criticize
its exclusion from the range of productive activities on the
ground that to do so would be normative, evaluative, moralistic
(one would be saying there can be a more rational order from
the standpoint of which these activities are unproductive), and
therefore regards PUPL to be unacceptable as a scientific
distinction. We leave aside the complex debate concerning the
relationship between social science and so-called value
judgments. It is true that Marx regards the expenses of
circulation (which obviously include the wages of workers
employed in this sphere) as the faux frais of capitalism, as an
expression of its irrational nature, as one of its evils etc. But
the crux of the matter is the following: it is not because
capitalism with its plethora of commercial, banking, brokerage
etc. activities is irrational relative to communist society that
these circulation activities under capitalism are deemed
unproductive. On the contrary, it is because these activities are
unproductive that capitalism is regarded as irrational. What
then is the ground of saying that they are unproductive? We
have already examined this in detail but by way of recapitulation
it must be emphasized that a society can only increase its wealth
through the purposeful transformation of nature and only that
amount that has thus been produced can be distributed among
the individual members or social classes of a society. No amount
of exchanging parts of the social product already produced can
increase this product itself. Circulation activities in the strict
sense of the term do nothing but that. Of course, the nature of
capitalism renders this type of labour necessary but this does
not change in the least that these activities do not increase
overall production.30 The characterization of labour expended
in the sphere of circulation as unproductive labour is nothing but
a logical extension of the Marxist distinction between the spheres
of production and circulation. Whoever accepts the latter
distinction has to accept equally the former. It is indeed
astonishing to find someone saying simultaneously that there
can be no production of surplus-value in circulation and that
labour employed in circulation is productive, this being dened
as labour that produces surplus-value. This position defies all
logic. To conclude this point then: The distinction PUPL has
nothing normative, evaluative or moralistic about it any more
than the prior distinction between production and circulation.
One nal line of argument that is commonly used in order to
prove that circulation activities are no different from production
activities from the standpoint of the distinction PUPL is to point
out an alleged contradiction in Marxs thinking. Critics recall
that Marx constantly emphasized that the distinction PUPL is
indifferent to the type of use-value produced. They then
proceed to claim that circulation activities result in specic use-
values which are admittedly of a different nature but, on Marxs
own admission, this difference in nature should not be a basis
for excluding this type of labour from the overall set of
productive labour. It is here that the full force of our earlier
insistence on the importance of the concept productive labour
in general reveals itself. To recapitulate, the quality of being
productive in general is a necessary (though not sufficient)
condition for labour to be productive for capital. This means
that any activity which is not directly necessary for humanitys
intercourse with nature in order to transform aspects of it in
accordance with human needs cannot be regarded as productive
labour in general, nor, therefore, as productive labour under
capitalism. In other words, this double determination of the
concept productive labour implies that productive labour under
capitalism is a subset of productive labour in general. On the
basis of this understanding it is a simple task to prove that the
critics are wrong in accusing Marx of contradicting his own
definition. Since productive labour for capital is a subset of
productive labour in general, it follows that no activity that falls
outside of the latter can be deemed productive. As we stressed
above such an activity is by definition unproductive in all types
of socio-economic organization. Therefore, each and every one
of Marxs propositions concerning productive labour for capital
can only cover those activities which lie within the set of types
of labour which are productive in general. In other words, only
labour which is productive in general may or may not be
productive for capital depending on contingent conditions.
Hence, when Marx emphasizes that the distinction PUPL is
144 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 145
independent of and indifferent to the type of use-value
produced, his statement is, by the logic of his whole position,
restricted to that set of use-values which corresponds to the set
of productive labour in general. It does not cover use-values
produced (the term is eminently misplaced in this context)
by circulation activities. In short, the type of use-value that
results from a certain activity is immaterial to the distinction
PUPL only when the activity in question is part of production.
The second major area of contention concerns those
categories of labour which in different ways contribute to an
increase in the mass and rate of surplus-value. Since productive
labour for capital is defined as that labour which produces
surplus-value, it has been held that any type of worker (health
workers, teachers, scientists and research workers to name but
a few examples) who contributes to an increase in surplus-value
for capital should be considered either as productive, on an
equal footing with, for instance, industrial workers, or as
indirectly productive. There is a certain deceptive coherence
here. However, closer examination shows that it would be a
serious mistake to go along with this line of reasoning.
Surplus-value is nothing but the historically specific social
form of the surplus labour the worker expends over and above
necessary labour, i.e. over and above that part of his labour that
goes to reproduce the equivalent to his wages. Those workers
who are supposed to be indirectly productive do not expend
surplus labour for capital (unless they themselves are wage
workers for a certain capitalist in which case they are already
productive labourers). To say, therefore, that they contribute
to the production of extra surplus-value for capital becomes
something of a riddle: where does the extra surplus-value come
from if capital does not appropriate a part of their labour as
surplus labour? The paradox disappears as soon as we realize
that the workers in question contribute to the rise in surplus-
value through their contribution to an increase in the social
productivity of labour. This increase in productivity finds its
immediate expression in a diminution of the value of the labour
power of production workers and, thereby, in an increase in
the surplus labour and hence of surplus-value appropriated by
capital. So the extra surplus-value is the value form of the extra
surplus labour extorted out of the production workers. It has
already been counted as their contribution to surplus-value so
that to count it a second time as a specific contribution of
scientists, educators etc. would be a blatant case of double-
counting. And since the distinction PUPL has no normative or
moralistic significance but is important in analysing the
trajectory of accumulation, this type of double-counting would
have been unacceptable. This whole debate was foreshadowed
by Marx in a passage we have already quoted above where he
specified the specific importance of the direct participation of
the worker in the productive process:
labour is only productive, and an exponent of labour-power
is only a productive worker, if it or he creates surplus-value
directly, i.e. the only productive labour is that which is directly
consumed in the course of production for the valorization of
capital. (Marx, 1976a: 1038a; emphasis added).
We believe that the above discussion shows that a systematic
and rigorous theoretical reconstruction of the distinction PUPL
renders it immune to the major criticisms to which it has been
subjected in the course of the debate of the last two decades. It
is, in our opinion, the main contribution of this article to have
provided this type of systematic attempt at reconstruction, with
particular emphasis on the key importance, neglected
heretofore by most participants in the debate, of the category
productive labour in general as the foundation upon which
the more specific and narrow concept productive labour for
capital rises.
The above discussion also provides us with the criteria
necessary to classify as productive or unproductive the major
groups of workers within a capitalist economy. This classi-
fication may be summed up as in Figure 3.
The first point to be noted is that Figure 3 is an attempt to
classify only those workers (or producers) who are employed
on the basis of a wage contract and excludes both labour
expanded outside the circuits of money-commodity circulation
(housewives, self-sufficient peasant households) and that of
petty-commodity producers. This is because the division
productive/unproductive is meaningful only when a worker is
a wage labourer, since the aim of the distinction is to see what
portion of the total social labour so employed creates (is
146 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 147
productive of) surplus-value and what portion is simply
engaged in activities that are paid out of surplus-value. The
production of surplus-value being predicated upon wage-
labour, the two categories of use-value production and petty-
commodity production are irrelevant to the distinction under
examination. That is why they were excluded from the
discussion at an earlier stage (see Figure 2).
Figure 3 brings out the fact that major sections of the
working class in capitalist society are unproductive workers.
Naturally, this does not imply in any sense that they are less
important either for the well-being of society or for the class
struggle and for revolutionary strategy. The distinction PUPL
is signicant exclusively for the analysis of the various signicant
variables of the capitalist economy such as the value of labour-
power, the rate and mass of surplus-value and hence the rate
of capital accumulation. This is sufficient ground for taking the
distinction seriously for it is only through an examination of
these variables that Marxists can adequately analyze the
historical trajectory and the cyclical fluctuations of capitalist
Wage-Labour paid Wage-Labour employed
out of revenue by private capital
Unproductive Workers employed Workers employed
in circulation in the production
and transportation
,of goods and services
Unproductive Productive
State Employees
Reproduction of Social Services State Enterprises in
the Social Order Production and
Unproductive Unproductive Productive
Figure 3.
(domestic servants, cooks,
gardeners, chauffeurs
body-guards, etc.)
(banks, insurance and mort-
gage companies, wholesale
and retail trade, etc.)
(may be productive if
organized as commodity
148 Capital & Class #68
1. For empirical estimations of Marxian categories see, for example, among
many recent works Shaikh and Tonak (1994), Moseley (1986).
2. Since we base our analysis on the labour theory of value, the question of
whether the distinction PUPL can be meaningful in alternative theoretical
frameworks lies outside the scope of this article.
3. The wages of unproductive labourers ‘constitute a reduction of the surplus-
value that is available for reinvestment as capital’ (Yaffe, 1973a: 2).
4. For diametrically opposite approaches to this question see Glyn and
Sutcliffe (1972); Yaffe (1973b); Shaikh (1978a); Shaikh (1978b).
5. In this context, an alternative macroeconomic accounting framework
based on the PUPL distinction expectedly produces a completely different
set of measures of surplus product, consumption, investment and
productivity. Hence, one should expect to arrive at a fundamentally
different empirical picture of a given economy. To illustrate the dramatic
extent of this difference in empirical measurements, it suffices to compare
the rate of surplus-value (by taking into consideration the PUPL
distinction) with its conventional counterpart, the profit-wage ratio.
Between 1948-89, the U.S. rate of surplus-value increased by approx-
imately 44% when the conventional measure profit wage ratio declined
by 22% (Shaikh and Tonak, 1994: 151).
6. For a discussion of questions relating to redistribution due to state action
see Tonak (1984).
7. On the other hand, the distinction PUPL is not necessary for establishing
(or even reinforcing) the distinction between spheres of production and
circulation. This latter distinction is conceptually independent of and prior
to the distinction PUPL which itself is, in fact, predicated upon a solid
understanding of the difference between production and circulation. We
emphasize this point because there seems to be some confusion regarding
this aspect, a point we will be returning to in the penultimate section.
8. Need it be pointed out that the concept of ‘productive labour in general’
employed here by Marx is an element of the conceptual sphere of
‘production-in-general’ which defines characteristics common to all modes
of production (the labour process, for instance) which Marx takes as his
starting point in his analysis of the capitalist mode of production (Marx,
1973: 85–8).
9. The idea of grounding the distinction between PUPL on such a basic set
of activities was first put forward by Shaikh (1980). The first four concepts
employed here are due to Marx’s discussion in the Grundrisse, (Marx,
1973: 88–100). Consumption, however, is here taken up only in its
‘personal and social’ form (‘consumption proper’ in Marx’s words), since
other types of consumption, i.e. consumption of means of production
and of raw materials (what Marx calls ‘productive consumption’) refer
immediately back to production.
10. It must be clearly stated that housework, predominantly carried out by
women, is not a consumption activity but a necessary element of the
production of the material to be consumed. Without housework
consumption goods cannot acquire the final form in which they can be
consumed (including the socially created forms of consumption).
Therefore housework is a production activity (see further footnote 17).
Productive and Unproductive Labour 149
11. On the other hand, to the extent that the capitalist also works as a manager
of his own firm, he acts, in that capacity, as worker and that part of his
income due to his labour should be regarded as belonging to the same
category as the salaries of the rest of the managerial staff. Marx is of the
opinion that in such cases the capitalist should even be considered to be
a productive worker: ‘As the director of the labour process the capitalist
performs productive labour in the same sense that his labour is involved
in the total process that is realized in the product’ (Marx, 1976a, 1048).
This whole discussion clearly shows that in the distinction PUPL the
decisive criterion concerns the type of activity carried on and not the
position of the individual who carries out this activity within the overall
social hierarchy or division of labour.
12. See Marx: ‘The structure of distribution is completely determined by the
structure of production. Distribution is itself a product of production, not
only in its object, in that only the results of production can be distributed,
but also in its form…’ (Marx, 1973: 95)
13. Others, such as kings or priests, to give the most prominent examples,
can hardly be said to ‘work’ in any meaningful sense of the word.
14. And since capital is but a converted form of surplus-value, ‘productive
labour is only that which produces capital…Labour becomes productive
only by producing its own opposite’ (Marx, 1973: 305n).
15. See Marx: ‘…these definitions are therefore …derived…from the definite
social form, the social relations of production, within which the labour is
realized’ (Marx, 1963: 157).
16. This double determination of the concept productive labour for capital is
expressed by Marx in the following manner: ‘The concept of a productive
worker therefore implies not merely a relation between the activity of
work and its useful effect, between the worker and the product of his work,
but also a specifically social relation of production, a relation with a
historical origin which stamps the worker as capital’s direct means of
valorization’ (Marx, 1973: 644).
17. The fact that housework, which swallows up a large part of the life of
women, is not productive for capital does not, of course, mean that it is
not productive in the general sense or that it is not useful for society at
large. It certainly is an essential element within the overall expenditure
of total social labour under all societies and should be recognized as such.
However, it does not directly and immediately create surplus-value and
this is what counts when deciding what is productive labour under
18. It is estimated that, before the first world war, hired domestic service
accounted for as much as one-sixth of Britain’s workforce (The Economist,
I998, 20).
19. See Marx: ‘…circulation of commodities can take place without physical
motion by them, and there can be transportation of products without
circulation of commodities, and even without a direct exchange of
products. A house sold by A to B does not wander from one place to
another, although it circulates as a commodity’ (Marx, 1956: 152).
20. Since labour spent in storage activities in this sense is part of the
production process, just in-time techniques which result in a reduction
of the expenditure of such labour simply raise the productivity of labour
in the production process and thereby bring down the relative value of
the commodities produced through such processes.
21. This is what Marx has to say on the question: ‘Quantities of products are
not increased by transportation. Nor, with a few exceptions, is the possible
alteration of their natural qualities, brought about by their transportation,
an intentional useful effect; it is rather an unavoidable evil. But the use-
value of things is materialized only in their consumption and may
necessitate a change of location of these things, hence may require an
additional process of production, in the transport industry. The productive
capital invested in this industry imparts value to the transported products,
partly by transferring value from the means of transportation, partly by
adding value through labour performed in transport. This last-named
increment of value consists, as it does in all capitalist production, of a
replacement of wages and of surplus-value’ (Marx, 1956: 153).
22. This may partly be due to the fact that the national income accounts of
the Soviet Union and, following its example, of other countries where
capitalism has been abolished were so organized as to relegate the
production of all services to the domain of unproductive activities.
Presumably, some authors assume on the strength of this example that
the provision of services under capitalism also falls in that domain.
(Whether criteria for the distinction PUPL applicable to capitalism are
equally valid in a post-capitalist society is a question we cannot discuss
23. Marx says of this definition ‘Adam Smith was essentially correct with his
productive and unproductive labour, correct from the standpoint of
bourgeois economy’ (Marx, 1973: 273).
24. The foregoing quotation should, however, be handled carefully. Lest it
might be read as saying that all labour can be productive irrespective of
its position within the social division of labour and, thereby, accepted as
licence to claim that workers employed by circulation capital or even those
engaged in the reproduction of the social order are productive, we feel it
necessary to draw attention to Marx’s careful wording (of what is after all
an unpublished text): He talks of ‘special utility’ and ‘particular use-value’
implying thereby that the product in question does have a use-value and
therefore the labour which produces it is engaged in production. In other
words, it is not the presence or otherwise of a use-value, but its particular
nature that Marx regards as irrelevant to the discussion of PUPL.
25. The translation is here corrected. The word ‘which’ italicized in the above
quotation was omitted by the translator and this changes the meaning of
Poulantzas’ discussion. Its absence makes it seem that it is ‘use-values’
which are exchanged against revenue while the French text shows that it
is labour, or rather labour-power, that is so exchanged.
26. Having equated the working class with the category of productive workers,
Poulantzas goes even further to declare that the wage workers employed
by capital in the service sector do not belong to the working class
(Poulantzas, 1975: 212–14).
27. See Marx: ‘The materialization, etc., of labour is however not to be taken
in such a Scottish sense as Adam Smith conceives it. When we speak of
150 Capital & Class #68
Productive and Unproductive Labour 151
the commodity as a materialization of labour…this itself is only an
imaginary, that is to say, a purely social mode of existence of the
commodity which has nothing to do with its corporeal reality…’(Marx,
1963: 171).
28. This criterion can also be expressed by saying that in the case of services ‘the
product is not separable from the act of producing.’ (Marx, 1973: 1048).
29. Some prominent examples of the critical approach to PUPL are the
following: Gough (1972), Harrison (1973), Hunt (1979), de Vroey (1982)
and Laibman (1992). It should be noted that the line of critique which we
attempt to respond to in the text is a composite picture and there is not
the least implication that the authors mentioned share each and every
idea presented below.
30. Lest it be retorted that circulation does contribute to increased production
by accelerating the turnover of capital, it should be recalled that we have
already taken this aspect into consideration.
de Vroey, Michel (1982) ‘On the Obsolescence of the Marxian Theory of Value.’
in Capital&Class 17, Summer.
Glyn, A. and B. Sutcliffe (1972) British Capitalism, Workers, and the Profit
Squeeze. Penguin Press, Middlesex.
Gough, Ian (1972) ‘Marx’s Theory of Productive and Unproductive Labour.’
in New Left Review 76, December.
Harrison, John (1973) ‘Productive and Unproductive Labour in Marx’s Political
Economy.’ in Bulletin of the Conference of Socialist Economists, Autumn.
Hunt, E.K. (1979) ‘The Categories of Productive and Unproductive Labour
in Marxist Economic Theory.’ in Science and Society, Fall.
Laibman, David (1992) Value, Technical Change, and Crisis: Explorations in
Marxist Economic Theory. M. E. Sharpe, New York.
Mandel, Ernest (1981) ‘Introduction’ Capital, Vol.II, Vintage Books, New
Marx, Karl (1956) Capital, Vol.I. Progress Publishers, Moscow.
__________ (1963) Theories of Surplus-Value, Part I. Progress Publishers,
__________ (1973) Grundrisse. Penguin, Harmondsworth.
__________ (1976a) ‘Results of the Immediate Process of Production.’
published as an Appendix in Capital, Vol.I.Penguin, Harmondsworth.
__________ (1976b) Capital, Vol.I. Penguin, Harmondsworth.
Moseley, Fred (1986) ‘Estimates of the Rate of Surplus-Value in the Postwar
United States Economy,’ in Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol.18,
Poulantzas, Nicos (1975) Classes in Contemporary Capitalism. New Left Books,
Shaikh, Anwar (1978a) ‘An Introduction to the History of Crisis Theories.’ in
U.S. Capitalism in Crisis, Union for Radical Political Economics, Monthly
Review Press, New York.
__________ (1978b) National Income Accounts and Marxian Categories, New
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152 Capital & Class #68
__________ (1980) Towards a Critique of the Keynesian Theory of the Role of the
State, Unpublished Paper.
Shaikh, Anwar and E. Ahmet Tonak (1994) Measuring the Wealth of Nations:
Political Economy of National Accounts. Cambridge University Press, New York.
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The Economist (26/09/98).
Tonak, E. Ahmet (1984) A Conceptualization of State Revenues and Expenditures:
U.S. 1952-1980, Unpublished Ph. D. Dissertation, New School for Social
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152 Capital & Class #68
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... So the key aspect of the distinction is not whether the labour is necessary or not but whether it produces surplus value or not. Therefore, state employees are paid out of taxes (or government borrowing) rather than from sales of a commodity, so they are unproductive 8 Savran and Tonak, 1999). Empirical analysis commonly indicates that the share of unproductive labour has increased in the U.S. Since unproductive labour is ultimately paid out of surplus value, its amount is an important indicator of how much profit is actually available (Mohun, 2012a, p. 282). ...
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Çalışma, Humboldt tipi üniversiteden, Amerikan modeli üniversiteye geçişte, akademik emek sürecinde yaşanan değişimler sonucunda, akademisyenlerin proleterleşme eğilimi gösterip göstermediklerini sorgulamaktadır. Kapitalizmin neoliberal ideolojisi çerçevesinde, yükseköğretim metalaşırken, küresel bir yükseköğretim piyasası ortaya çıkmaktadır. Bu sürecin ülkemizdeki yansımaları, 1981 yılında YÖK'ün kuruluşu ile varlık kazanan vakıf üniversiteleri ile birlikte devlet üniversitelerinde yeni kamu yönetimi anlayışının işlerlik kazanması temelinde ortaya çıkmaktadır. Bu gelişmeler ışığında Türkiye'de akademik emek sürecinde yaşanan değişimleri, akademisyenler temelinde açıklama ve anlama çabasına yönelik olarak, İstanbul ve İzmir illerinde, A,B,C ve D tipi olarak analiz edilen 17 farklı devlet ve vakıf üniversitesinde çalışmakta olan 28 öğretim üyesi ile derinlemesine görüşme gerçekleştirilmiştir. Araştırma sonucunda, iki temel akademik faaliyet olan ders verme ve araştırma sürecinde, bir emek potansiyeli olan emek gücünün emeğe dönüşümünde izlenilen verimlilik stratejileri temelinde örgütlenmekte olduğu görülmüştür. Akademisyenlerin, dış ve iç emek piyasası yoluyla; derslerin ve araştırma sürecinin standartlaştırılması; akademik emek sürecinde tasarım ve uygulamanın birbirinden ayrılması; performans denetimi; teknolojik denetim; akademik teşvik gibi ödül mekanizmaları ile yoluyla kontrol altına alınılmaya çalışıldığı belirlenmiştir. Bu çerçevede akademik işin artan bir şekilde güvencesizleştiği, akademik emeğin yeri doldurulabilir parçalara indirgendiği ve değersizleştiği ortaya koyulmuştur. Mesleğe girişin ALES ve yabancı dil sınavı gibi sınavlar yoluyla standartlaştırıldığı, akademik emeğin vasıflarının, Power Point, veri analiz programları gibi teknolojik gelişmelere bağımlı bir hale geldiği ve böylelikle vasıf kaybının söz konusu olduğu görülmüştür. Kontrole karşı ortaya çıkan karşı koyma örüntülerinden sendikalaşma şeklindeki örgütlü kolektif karşı koyma çabalarının başarısızlıkla sonuçlanmış olması söz konusudur. Bu temelde araştırma kapsamında akademik emeğin proleterleşme eğilimi gösterdiği belirlenmiştir.
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Open Acces at: Underlying the idea of the middle classes there is a contradictory positionality, the relations of which ultimately enhance capital accumulation. By opening Marxist critique to Weberian approaches to class, we explain how the self-ascription of short-term rental (STR) suppliers to the middle-class idea boosts exploitation and accumulation. Housing income, and recently that originating in STRs, has been used to maintain the symbolic and material status of the so-called middle classes in Spain, and specifically in Palma. Based on statistical data analysis and interviews with STR suppliers, managers and workers, we analyse the contradictory class positionality of STR suppliers in Palma (Majorca, Spain). First, we argue, that STR suppliers are part of the middle classes since they bear attributes of rent, labour and also capital, as they employ workers to produce a tourism commodity. Second, we contend that STR overnight stays should not only be considered as land rent payments, but also as the sale of a tourism commodity. Third, we claim that the contradictory positionality of the middle classes fuels self-exploitation, for STR suppliers misalign their interests with those of capital.
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This text starts with a diagnosis of the inadequacy of the dispossession theory for the analysis of the relationship between capital involved in academic publishing and academic labour. It assumes that it is necessary to develop a Marxian theory of productive and unproductive labour within the field of higher education. For this purpose, an Autonomist Marxist perspective on productive labour is proposed, to facilitate analysis of the contemporary subsumption of academic labour under capital, and to organise resistance against it. The essence of this approach is rooted in an exposition of the two-sided perspective on Marxist categories of the critique of political economy. It is used here to approximate the concept of directly productive academic labour and to indicate its apparent limitations. The next step is to present a view on the systemic productivity of academic labour. This is the only way to address the issue of truly productive academic work in the Marxian sense, and the obstacles standing in the way to its full implementation, the key to which is the smooth functioning of capitalist measurement exercised within the field of science and higher education.
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Marx's theory of crisis is usually associated with the law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit presented in volume three of Capital. According to Marx, the rising organic composition of capital - the fact that variable capital grows in absolute terms, but falls relatively because of the faster growth of constant capital - results in the fall of the general rate of profit, which undermines the reproduction of capital. In this article I will argue that: i) there is a "first version" of Marx's theory of crisis, outlined especially in the Grundrisse, which ascribes the secular crisis of the capitalist economy to the absolute decline of living labour and, therefore, to the falling mass of socially produced surplus-value; ii) only this "first version" of the theory of crisis allows the absolute internal limit of capital to be deduced consistently.
The tourism industries remain inadequately and inconsistently theorised as a form of capitalist development despite their immense ability to transform spaces and economies. The fundamental proposition that tourism ‘commodifies’ place is widely declared yet rarely critically analysed. There exists confusion about the role of nature and culture, and the experiential nature of consumption, in the commodification of place. To clarify these processes, we extend previous geographic work on the commodification of nature to develop a typology of commodified tourist spaces firmly grounded in political economy. We deploy this analysis to illuminate the distinctive spatial politics of anti-tourism resistance.
This book provides an alternate foundation for the measurement of the production of nations, and applies it to the US economy for the postwar period. The patterns which result are significantly different from those derived within conventional systems of national accounts. Conventional national accounts seriously distort basic economic aggregates because they classify military, bureacratic and financial activities as creation of new wealth. In fact, the authors argue, these aggregates should be classified as forms of social consumption which, like personal consumption, actually use up social wealth in the performance of their functions.
An interpretation of the Marxian theory of crisis that rejects the ‘Keynesianism’ of most post-war contributions on the topic. Various criticisms of Marx's position are examined and two popular but incorrect versions of the theory are discussed; the underconsumptionist and disproportionality theory of crisis. An attempt is made to begin an analysis of the role of state intervention in the economy and indicate the limitations of intervention by the capitalist state implied by Marx's theory of crisis.
One important prediction of Marx's theory is that the rate of surplus-value will increase as a secular tendency. This paper subjects this prediction of Marx's theory to an empirical test, by deriving annual estimates of the rate of surplus-value in the United States economy over the period 1947-1977. These estimates show that the rate of surplus-value in the United States economy increased significantly over this period, as predicted by Marx's theory. These estimates are then compared with other estimates of the rate of surplus-value in the postwar United States economy which are based on different interpretations of the main theoretical issues involved in the estimation of the rate of surplus-value. This comparison shows that the theoretical issue which makes the most difference in the estimated trend of the rate of surplus-value is whether or not Marx's distinction between productive labor and unproductive labor is taken into account in the definition of the rate of surplus-value.