"Productive" Versus "Unproductive" workers

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RedHughs
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May 11 2007 19:14
"Productive" Versus "Unproductive" workers

Hi,

This post is inspired by some discussions on other boards.

Various folks have distinguished the productiveness or unproductiveness of workers as helping the determine whether their struggles are revolutionary or important or whatever. The standard contrast here is between factory workers and school teachers or call center workers or house wives (I understanding that I'm conflating this with the distinction between productive labor and reproductive activity but I would tend to see all these activities are converging and for similar reasons).

I would say that the approach of looking towards productive workers for the crucial struggles is common among we would-be revolutionaries but this approach does not take into account the way that the capitalist system is evolving today, which is towards lessening the distinctions between productive and unproductive workers. Factory workers have had at least a more visible history of revolutionary struggle than the latter groups but this doesn't mean the pattern will continue or even that recent history has confirmed it.

My argument is that the modern capitalist system tends to involve less and less direct activity and more and more maintenance of the total infrastructure of production. Such maintenance involves both "education" and nuts-and-bolts activities. "Services" are a large part of even the jobs that are now located in China or India. This situation is characteristic of capital prone to financial crisis and the generation of "fictitious capital" due to the entirety of the social machinery being taken as a massive chunk of capital which must gain its profit through the sale of the labor power of the maintenance workers.

One illustration is help-desk employees. Within something like a phone company or computer-manufacturer, these employees are necessary part of selling a final product or maintaining a productive process - unless a product is usable by the end user, it cannot be sold - support is a necessary component of the commodity. Call center employees form a spectrum with education workers, who, when employed by a large company, are rightly seen as a necessary part of the entire package. Now, state educational employees certainly operate with a different dynamic than corporate trainers but the distinction is becoming fuzzier.

Now, you could indeed say that help desk employees, trainers and teachers are all have an indirect relation to production, characteristic of a professional stratum, compared to those who "really" do things split wood or welding fenders on automobiles. But when "productive" work moves from welding fenders on cars to debugging the software of the robot that welds the fenders on the cars, then the distinction between production and reproduction seems fuzzy at best to me. The help desk and the training is integral part of keep the software on the robot working.

Just as much, the integration of capital also makes the distinction between salesman, clerk and assembler a bit fuzzy. Is the grocery bagger non-productive? What about the truck driver taking food to market? What about the deliver van operator taking food to yuppies who ordered over the internet? Is a gas station pumper productive when customers are quite capable of pumping their own gas?

Computer programmers certainly create a "thing" yet the programmer has historically had a middle class, individualistic perspective. Indeed, within the corporate IT, programmers are the relative top of the heap within non-managerial employees whereas help desk employees tend to be towards the bottom. It is interesting that numerically controlled machine programmers as a group are drawn from machinists and come out of the blue-collar workforce, yet their actual activity is essentially the production of programs similar to "standard' programmers.

Recapping, I view that capital tends to merge production and reproduction. There certainly was distinction between productive and non-productive in, say, the 19th century but I view this distinction as an artifact of capital first appearing as an alien entity invading society whereas it presently appears has occupied the entirety of social space - a progression which is natural to the way capital operates. Just as much, the distinctions between productive and unproductive labor, whether based on accounting, teaching-versus-real-activity or mental-versus-manual-labor, are lessening with more and more wage laborers placed on the fuzzy "unproductive" side of the equation.

In saying this, I wouldn't argue that the bulks of apparently non-productive labor is indeed useless, futile, pathetic and ridiculous. That seems a natural corollary of capital having solved the problem of bare survival (at least in-potentia).

It sometimes argued that the distinction is between those workers who can stop society's activity and those who can't. one interesting example in the question of "stop society" is - the Piqueteros. In Argentina, these were those utterly excluded from the production and consumption process. By this exclusion, they reached the condition of having absolutely nothing to lose and thus were willing to lay down their lives to stop the circulation of traffic, which equals the circulation of capital and commodities. The usual categories of critical-to-production and unimportant-to-production would treat the excluded as within the unimportant yet this dynamic went in dialectical full circle and the excluded were crucial for stopping production. This dialectic might not reproduce itself but it is still interesting to see how proletarianization creates contradictions in capital's methods of dividing the working class.

Anyway, I invite folks to try to formulate a critical distinction between productive and unproductive labor. It is a crucial topic for debate.

Best Wishes,

Red

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MJ
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May 11 2007 19:44

Best topic in a while! I don't have time to type a lot right now, but the first thing I'll say is that it's crucial that we not look at "unproductive" work as something that simply replaces the "productive," but rather at how the relationship between labor that's indirectly and directly productive of commodities changes through history.

Waged "service sector" work sometimes comes out of unwaged work, but in other instances it's work that was originally part of a job that's stripped out of the labor process and allocated to a lower-paid worker.

Also entire regulatory / stabilizing / maintenance functions of production have been outsourced in a similar manner and are industries unto themselves (from janitorial services to insurance!).

advancedcapitalism
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May 12 2007 02:43
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My argument is that the modern capitalist system tends to involve less and less direct activity and more and more maintenance of the total infrastructure of production.

Could you elaborate as to what you mean by less and less direct activity? Do you mean that there are more worker's greasing the gears rather than making the gears?

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One illustration is help-desk employees. Within something like a phone company or computer-manufacturer, these employees are necessary part of selling a final product or maintaining a productive process - unless a product is usable by the end user, it cannot be sold - support is a necessary component of the commodity.

It is uncontroversial that there is a need within capitalism for employees that merely aid in the productive process. Support is necessary for the production of the commodity and as much was acknwoledged by Marx Capital (i feel in vol. 2). Thus, this is not a new phenomenon. Furthermore, it doesn't negate the crucial importance of the commodity as the defining and dominating social relation of our society.

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Just as much, the integration of capital also makes the distinction between salesman, clerk and assembler a bit fuzzy. Is the grocery bagger non-productive? What about the truck driver taking food to market? What about the deliver van operator taking food to yuppies who ordered over the internet? Is a gas station pumper productive when customers are quite capable of pumping their own gas?

Why is it important to distinguish the productivity or unproductivity of specific kinds of work? It seems like you could go back and forth all day about whether or not the truck driver is or is not a productive laborer. All of these workers do share one crucial thing in common. While their labor may not produce value but merely aid in the transfer of commodities, they all lack ownership of the means of production. All they have for their livelihoods is their labor power to sell.

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more and more wage laborers placed on the fuzzy "unproductive" side of the equation.

who cares if they are or are not?

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It sometimes argued that the distinction is between those workers who can stop society's activity and those who can't.

This is a bizarre distinction. Are capitalists workers then? Why can't housewives stop society's activity? To me, the distinction lies between whether or not the wage laborer contributes to the production of a commodity, within which is embodied the value of the means of production, the variable capital outlayed to higher the workers and the surplus value produced.

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[This] is a crucial topic for debate.

Why?

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Lazy Riser
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May 12 2007 11:15
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Why?

It has repercussions on the theoretical viability of Marxism and syndicalism. If workers are superfluous to production, then they have about as much revolutionary potential as unruly pets, as opposed to the livestock status they previously occupied.

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May 14 2007 05:11
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Why is it important to distinguish the productivity or unproductivity of specific kinds of work? It seems like you could go back and forth all day about whether or not the truck driver is or is not a productive laborer. All of these workers do share one crucial thing in common. While their labor may not produce value but merely aid in the transfer of commodities, they all lack ownership of the means of production. All they have for their livelihoods is their labor power to sell.

Yeah, but I think the argument goes along the lines that rebellousness in certain sectors troubles the ruling class a lot more and has more or less potential for revolutionary outcomes.

I've got a little bit of a soft spot for this kind of thinking but I haven't really thought about it too much and developed my thoughts very well...

Like, in Australia, there's one group that identify transport as a strategic sector, as mass strikes and shutdowns of transport would theoretically undermine capital and the state machinery. Sort of makes sense to me, and thus they focus on facilitating organising in this sector. But then what about your own problems, are you 'sposed to sit tight 'till strategic sectors fire up?

And then if you look at Paris '68, all that happened after solidarity strikes with students getting beat up...

Another thing is that we're living through a technological revolution and there are still some very productive jobs being created, like info tech - couldn't a well organised and militant movement of these guys basically pull the plug on business? But if its one or two people on the staff as IT support in a few buildings and the rest contractors, what's the scope for organising infotech workers?

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It has repercussions on the theoretical viability of Marxism and syndicalism. If workers are superfluous to production, then they have about as much revolutionary potential as unruly pets, as opposed to the livestock status they previously occupied.

But also, at a certain stage of techno-development where workers are more or less superfluous to production, couldn't a redundant working class turn it around and demand far less work?

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May 14 2007 08:43
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But also, at a certain stage of techno-development where workers are more or less superfluous to production, couldn't a redundant working class turn it around and demand far less work?

Sure they could. No doubt management would be delighted to accommodate them too, as they were in shipbuilding, coal mining and car manufacturing.

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May 16 2007 12:16

this issue came up on this thread, so i thought i'd carry on here ...

doesn't marx in capital volume one say something like "a teacher is productive of surplus value in a teaching factory as much as a factory worker is in an actual factory"? (from memory, it's worded differently)

would that not suggest productive/unproductive is not analogous to primary-secondary/tertiary sector workers?

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May 16 2007 12:51
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would that not suggest productive/unproductive is not analogous to primary-secondary/tertiary sector workers?

Only when the sectors support each others’ activities. In the post industrial economies jobs exist to provide occupational therapy rather than contribute to production directly. Strikes operate on the level of indignation and protest rather than as direct action in themselves. No profit margin will be hit if the teachers' don’t bother turning up for work (even if parents take time off to mind the kids in their teachers absence). What industrial muscle is there for us to flex JK?

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May 16 2007 12:55

well for example a general strike of retail workers would be a flexing

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May 16 2007 13:00

Oh that's the worst example going. Most retail jobs only exist due to low interest loans and grants handed out for the sake of regeneration. If they all walked out, Amazon and Next Direct would laugh all the way to the bank.

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May 16 2007 13:11

as would have been the case if the miners were all highly geared in 1926, i'll leave you to your tangents

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May 16 2007 13:16

I mean, Jesus, JK. Highstreet retailers are doing a lot of these smallish towns a favour even opening up there, if no one turns up to work for 'em, they'll be more than happy to cut their losses, liquidate their assets and for the directors to retire to their villas to plan their next commercial escapade. You may as well be arguing for the revolutionary potential of food riots, it's at least as likely to happen.

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May 16 2007 13:21

I don't pretend to be any great expert on this but my understanding of this is as follows:

Productive labour in capitalism is labour that expands capital, i.e. contributes to the cycle of accumulation. But this can't be posed simply at the level of the individual capitalist.

In this sense, the production of a Tornado jet is productive labour for Panavia Aircraft because it makes them a profit. But what value can the purchaser gain from such a product? It cannot enter into the productive process at all, either as means of production or consumption. It's only possible use is as of a weapon of war i.e. to sieze resources, markets, etc. from another capital. If used in this manner, it may transfer value to the holder but it doesn't create value. Taken from the point of view of capitalism as a whole, the labour and resources embodied in this weapon is a loss because it is removed from the productive process.

A teacher is a different case because her labour increases the value of the labour of other workers i.e. her students. By teaching someone to become an engineer you raise the value of their labour and thus the surplus value that this individual produces.

Finance capital on the other hand is largely unproductive because, by its very nature, it represents money that has not yet been transformed into real capital (either fixed or variable). Only by purchasing plant and/or labour, can money act as capital. The stock market in its original function was a means of gaining funds to do exactly this and the capital paid back to its investors a share of the surplus value. Today, the stock market and finance mechanisms are largely a speculative mechanism - stocks are no longer bought and sold because they represent titles to future surplus value but because they can be sold on at a profit. This process doesn't produce surplus value, only the use of the original capital does that. The enormous profits that this speculation can bring spring from the transfer of surplus value already produced and, often, imaginary "hot money".

Similarly, all the labour that faciliates exchange rather than production is unproductive because it only facilitates a transfer of wealth from a social point of view. Accountants, lawyers, policemen, criminals, etc. are generally unproductive because they don't actually create surplus value instead they record it, argue about it, protect it, or steal it respectively.

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May 16 2007 13:33

although you could say that accountants, policemen and lawyers are necessary for capital accumulation and so represent a portion of the socially necessary labour for production

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May 16 2007 13:55
josephk wrote:
although you could say that accountants, policemen and lawyers are necessary for capital accumulation and so represent a portion of the socially necessary labour for production

It's not a question of whether the functions are socially useful or not (even from the point of view of capital). To be productive, the labour must expand capital not simply create (or defend) the framework within which this is possible.

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May 16 2007 14:08

sure, but negri and his ilk would argue there is no production without circulation and reproduction, thus these activities are inherently 'productive' in the sense that capital cannot be valorised without them

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May 16 2007 14:25

Ha ha. Yeah and a fat lot of good their arguments have done us. As you sort of say, the question isn't so much one of the impotency of unproductive workers, more why did the general strike of 1926 fail even with a “proper” industrial working class in full effect.

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May 16 2007 15:00

The cleavage between production and the market is one of Marx's fundamental insights, though. The realisation of surplus value is logically distinct from its production, even if the latter is a necessary component of valorisation: "The conditions of direct exploitation, and those of realising it, are not identical. They diverge not only in place and time, but also logically. " (Capital Vol III, section III, "Exposition of the Internal Contradictions of the Law").

(As a side-note it's important to point out that being in an unproductive industry does not necessarily make one any less a proletarian. Workers in the arms industry are still workers and they are exploited, it's simply that their labour doesn't expand capital. In a similar manner, accountants (or at least clerical workers with an accounting function), a check-out operator in a supermarket, etc. are still producing profit for their own capitalist and are still exploited but they are not productive because they aren't expanding the social capital.)

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May 16 2007 15:17

Ha ha. Well you may as well argue that the accountant and shop clerk are exploiting the capitalist’s inability to automate away their jobs. What does any of this celebration of Marx’s insight into his own world view really mean beyond being a historical curiosity along the lines of Plato or Smith?

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May 16 2007 18:49

Ah finally some bites on this thread.

I'll be a bit vain and say that my original post replies to most of the points that are made here. But I should still reply.

Demogorgon wrote:
The cleavage between production and the market is one of Marx's fundamental insights, though. The realisation of surplus value is logically distinct from its production, even if the latter is a necessary component of valorisation: "The conditions of direct exploitation, and those of realising it, are not identical. They diverge not only in place and time, but also logically. " (Capital Vol III, section III, "Exposition of the Internal Contradictions of the Law").

Consider a clerk in a high-end clothing store. Basically, while this clerk is indeed making sure that the circuit of capital is completed, she/he is also modifying the good in question - they are putting in a bag, folding it nicely, giving the customer fashion and so-forth. Now, such treatment is quite idiotically unnecessary as far as socially-neutral or objective just of usefulness would go. However, the "service" by the clerk, in the sense of providing pampering, a proper image (provided by consultation with the clerk) and so forth does provide socially conditioned good helping to maintain a certain level of worker - a salesman or a managers require both a certain image and certain pampered ego to continue their activity. Now, one could argue that this is providing support for activity which itself merely involves circulation and "real production". Let's deal with this along with Demogorgon's other argument:

Demogorgon' wrote:
Productive labour in capitalism is labour that expands capital, i.e. contributes to the cycle of accumulation. But this can't be posed simply at the level of the individual capitalist.
In this sense, the production of a Tornado jet is productive labour for Panavia Aircraft because it makes them a profit. But what value can the purchaser gain from such a product? It cannot enter into the productive process at all, either as means of production or consumption. It's only possible use is as of a weapon of war i.e. to sieze resources, markets, etc. from another capital.

Now put this way, the argument presents us with a paradox. The labor involved in producing a weapon is unproductive because the jet is socially useful? Well, Similarly, the labor involved in producing the steel which goes into the plane is unproductive (or at least a portion of it is) and similarly the labor involved in producing the food used to feed the laborer who produce the weapons. Now, if we follow this reasoning to its end, we would find that a very percentage of all labor, even apparently productive labor, would accounted as unproductive labor given the resources devoted to accounting, speculation, "defense", advertising and so-forth by modern capitalist societies.

And we pretty much have a reductio ad absurdum, showing that there will be tremendous confusion on the productivity question if we considered the whole question.

One further point:

Demogorgon303 wrote:
josephk wrote:
although you could say that accountants, policemen and lawyers are necessary for capital accumulation and so represent a portion of the socially necessary labour for production

It's not a question of whether the functions are socially useful or not (even from the point of view of capital). To be productive, the labour must expand capital not simply create (or defend) the framework within which this is possible.

I would submit that capital evolves in a direction where the capitalist production system is becoming more and more interchangeable with "the framework within which the expansion of capital is possible" - we can see this in the privatization of all parts of life (water, air, roads, health..) as well as the capitalist planning of consumption, production, transportation. This is a natural result of the increasing socialization of labor. Certainly, a stably profitable capitalist system is predicated on capitalist being able to employ clear productive labor. However it is natural that capitalism, as contradictory system, tends to make the question of the ultimate productivity of labor employed unclear to not just us but also to the capitalists themselves. This is why capitalism is indeed in a vast crisis, tending to engage in activities which do not advanced social productivity in the sense of producing for anything like objective human needs and devoting tremendous resources to speculation (dot-com boom, housing boom, private-equity boom) and freely poisoning the planet.

That's it for now...

Red

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May 16 2007 19:05
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This is why capitalism is indeed in a vast crisis…

No, really? God, we’d never have guessed. Honestly, What an original point. Thanks.

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…tending to engage in activities which do not advanced social productivity in the sense of producing for anything like objective human needs

That's because "objective human needs" are a piece of piss to satisfy. At least mine are. Seeing as this is an Internet forum, one can only assume that goes for every poster on here. Unless by “objective human needs” one means the need to access unreasonable amounts of stuff, in which case, it’s fair to say, the punters don’t see how communism helps. Oh, other than telling us that we’re all going to hell in a hand cart either way, which is available for nothing from any fruitloop one might meet in the street. Sorry.

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May 16 2007 19:19
RedHughs wrote:
Consider a clerk in a high-end clothing store. Basically, while this clerk is indeed making sure that the circuit of capital is completed, she/he is also modifying the good in question - they are putting in a bag, folding it nicely, giving the customer fashion and so-forth. Now, such treatment is quite idiotically unnecessary as far as socially-neutral or objective just of usefulness would go. However, the "service" by the clerk, in the sense of providing pampering, a proper image (provided by consultation with the clerk) and so forth does provide socially conditioned good helping to maintain a certain level of worker - a salesman or a managers require both a certain image and certain pampered ego to continue their activity. Now, one could argue that this is providing support for activity which itself merely involves circulation and "real production".

It's a process of exchange, it doesn't modify the goods at all, so I don't follow your argument at all here.

RedHugh wrote:
Now put this way, the argument presents us with a paradox. The labor involved in producing a weapon is unproductive because the jet is socially useful? Well, Similarly, the labor involved in producing the steel which goes into the plane is unproductive (or at least a portion of it is) and similarly the labor involved in producing the food used to feed the laborer who produce the weapons. Now, if we follow this reasoning to its end, we would find that a very percentage of all labor, even apparently productive labor, would accounted as unproductive labor given the resources devoted to accounting, speculation, "defense", advertising and so-forth by modern capitalist societies.

This is exactly the point I was making. Modern capitalism is indeed saturated with unproductive expenditure, this is one of the fundamental aspects of its historic weakness. The chain of production you mention leading to the fighter jet illustrates why the production of weapons is such a drain on capital and hence, why war economy constitutes a fundamental blockage for this mode of production. All the products and labour (including past labour) congealed within the jet are a loss for global capitalism.

RedHugh wrote:
This is why capitalism is indeed in a vast crisis, tending to engage in activities which do not advanced social productivity in the sense of producing for anything like objective human needs and devoting tremendous resources to speculation (dot-com boom, housing boom, private-equity boom) and freely poisoning the planet.

Once again, exactly the point. Your comment about "the capitalist production system is becoming more and more interchangeable with "the framework within which the expansion of capital is possible"" is very apt, because it is this framework itself which is under threat from the underlying crisis. The diversion of resources into shoring up this framework is capitalism's only response to its "vast [historic] crisis". In this sense, all these phenomena are socially necessary for capitalism, even as they constitute an enormous burden for it.

posi
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May 16 2007 19:48

Typically for a libcom thread, no one has really bothered to set out a clear definition of 'productive' or 'unproductive'. I personally doubt whether you could sustain any such definition on which any significant amount of jobs would be 'unproductive'. What is it that's being produced in productive labour - use value, exchange value? What's the litmus test in the definitions being used?

Never mind whether the distinction is melting - it's not even clear that it exists in the first place!

The following is total rubbish: 'most retail jobs only exist due to low interest loans and grants handed out for the sake of regeneration'. If anyone wants to push it, let's see statistics or even evidence of any kind.

So is the point (which has been crucial in the above debate) that teachers (for example) don't undertake productive labour - an odd assertion, supported by the view that their strikes don't have the status of real economic disruption. Firstly, consider private schools - in such cases strikes have exactly the same quality of disruption as they do in other businesses. The only difference vis a vis state education is that unless a very high proportion of teachers strike at once, a sufficient body of secondary consumers (parents, the electorate), isn't compelled to put pressure on the primary consumer (the party of government). Just because it's less likely to happen doesn't change its basic quality. And anyway, as the first point shows, this has nothing to do with the type of work, and all to do with the form of the welfare state. (And surely no one's going to argue that private schools are productive, whereas public ones aren't...?)

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May 16 2007 19:57
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The following is total rubbish: 'most retail jobs only exist due to low interest loans and grants handed out for the sake of regeneration'

Ha ha. Righto chicken. Seriously, are you familiar with the "Market and Coastal Towns Initiative"?

Mike Harman
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May 16 2007 20:11
RedHughs wrote:
Now, if we follow this reasoning to its end, we would find that a very percentage of all labor, even apparently productive labor, would accounted as unproductive labor given the resources devoted to accounting, speculation, "defense", advertising and so-forth by modern capitalist societies.

And we pretty much have a reductio ad absurdum, showing that there will be tremendous confusion on the productivity question if we considered the whole question.

Yeah it's worth exploring though - paper mill workers producing junk mail etc. compared to books, compared to toilet paper etc. etc. a vast amount of labour really isn't productive in terms of meeting human need or desires even if the two people do identical jobs, but there's two different arguments there despite them being related.

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May 16 2007 20:16
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Firstly, consider private schools - in such cases strikes have exactly the same quality of disruption as they do in other businesses.

You know, I'm not sure about that either. I mean, not producing any food is bound to have a more disruptive effect than failing to get a few toffs through their GCSEs. All the private school teachers could go on strike tomorrow, and I wouldn’t know. It’s a bit like Sting’s chef walking out.

Mike Harman
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May 16 2007 20:25

a teachers' strike which threatened exams, threatens the organisation's ability to produce students who'll undertake work or go on to the next stage of education. If it threatens enrolment, it can seriously damage funding (often on a per-student basis). I think it has the potential for economic disruption, but only in the long term (both within the place where the strike's happening and outside of it).

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May 16 2007 20:32

Still not convinced catch. Even if we expand the idea to the public sector education service, and assuming we changed the law to allow the teachers to keep their jobs despite being on strike indefinitely, private sector firms would just move in and soak up the demand for child care. The money saved in teachers wages would make it back into the economy eventually, and it’s not as if you need fantastic qualifications to flip burgers and buy electronic gadgets which is all the jobs we really need to do anymore. I suppose we'd loose "national income" by importing labour to perform skilled trades, assuming they’d even be effected by a teachers strike.

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May 16 2007 20:36
Lazy Riser wrote:
Seriously, are you familiar with the "Market and Coastal Towns Initiative"?

A bit of googling reveals it is a sub-project of the South West Regional Development Agengy. Are you asking us to believe that most retail jobs are located in Market or Coastal towns in the South West? Or is there something more to this?

EDIT: its total funding is £18 million, spread across 77 towns.

Lazy Riser wrote:
You know, I'm not sure about that either. I mean, not producing any food is bound to have a more disruptive effect than failing to get a few toffs through their GCSEs. All the private school teachers could go on strike tomorrow, and I wouldn’t know. It’s a bit like Sting’s chef walking out.

But LR (as i'm sure you'd be the first to acknowledge), no one cares what you notice. And obviously not producing food (in total) is going to be more disruptive than not teaching kids, but that's a difference in degree, not something that indicates that a different quality of labour is undertaken. Probably just stopping all the food production in this country would be less disruptive than a long term shut down in primary and secondary education. We could import food. But hundreds of thousands of kids, many hormonal, bored and without proper supervision....

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May 16 2007 21:18
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most retail jobs are located in Market or Coastal towns in the South West?

Well comrade, I call it like I see it. Your mileage may vary, but I was in Belfast recently too, same story there I think you’ll find. And Birmingham, whilst I’m at it. That Bullring must have cost a pretty penny. I mean, I’ve clearly rubbed you up the wrong way here, but I don’t think it’s controversial to say that new retail jobs are financed by business loans marshalled by quangos, and local government for that matter, to pump the economy.

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obviously not producing food (in total) is going to be more disruptive than not teaching kids, but that's a difference in degree, not something that indicates that a different quality of labour is undertaken.

Interesting point. I’m inclined to agree that there’s no difference in the quality of labour undertaken, nevertheless the difference in degree is significant with regard to the likely outcome of collective action, especially in regard of education’s status as a public good (in the sense of Olson).

Mike Harman
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May 16 2007 21:24

A strike by distribution workers to supermarket depots would have immeasurably more effect than a strike by British farm workers. It would only need to be a few thousand people as well.