Fred B. Moseley
fmoseley at mhc.mtholyoke.edu
Fri Oct 7 18:09:00 MDT 1994
Thanks for your comments on Abromovitz' article, which I had not
read before (I have now read quickly). Abromovitz argues that
education has enhanced the productivity of labor and therefore is a
"source of growth". You compare this argument to Cullenberg's
critique of my work on productive and unproductive labor (Cullenberg's
critique and my response are both in the June 1994 issue of the Review
of Radical Political Economics).
However, there is an important difference between Abromovitz and
Cullenberg: the unproductive labor that Abromovitz is talking about
is primarily labor employed by the government, whereas my work and
Cullenberg's critique have to do with unproductive labor employed in
circulation and supervisory activities within capitalist enterprises.
Marx described this distinction as "unproductive labor employed by
capital" vs. unproductive labor employed by revenue". I agree that
both types of unproductive labor MAY have an indirectly positive
effect on the productivity of productive labor. But I think this
positive effect is much more likely in the case of education labor
than in the case of circulation or supervisory labor. I think it is
especially unlikely that circulation labor has a significant positive
effect on the productivity of productive labor, and circulation labor
constitutes 2/3 of the total unproductive labor employed by capital
(in the US). So I have argued that my conclusions regarding the
negative effects of the growth of unproductive labor employed by
capital still stand. In any case, my conclusions are not affected
by Abromovitz' analysis of the contributions of education to growth.
However, Abromovitz' analysis does raise an important question which
should be examined.
In addition to the point you make, Abromovitz' article is a good
critique of the conventional methodology of "growth accounting" -
which Abromovitz himself has utilized in famous articles in the past.
This article is a sort of recantation.
Thanks again for your stimulating comments.
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