Productive and Unproductive Labor

glevy at glevy at
Tue Aug 1 07:06:16 MDT 1995

Paul wrote:

> To get into the debate over productive versus unproductive labor, labor
> employed in the finance sector is unproductive labor and so does NOT
> produce surplus value (it consumes surplus value produced elsewhere).
Glad to see you participate, Paul.  I've read and enjoyed many of your

Is labor employed in the finance sector productive or unproductive in
Marx's understanding?  An interesting question.  My understanding is that
wage labor employed by private capital to produce surplus value is
productive labor.  Yes?

There is clearly commodity production in the  financial service sector
although it takes the form of a service rather  than a material good
(like a car).  Many people (I'm sure you are not one) confuse commodity
production with the production of material goods. Financial service
employers are private employers and not part of the state sector.

So, in what sense can we say that *some* wage earners within the
financial service sector are not productive (of surplus value) laborers?
Of course, there are many who are employed in that sector who are
unproductive laborers (managers, accountants, advertisement staff,
etc.), but are you saying that the financial service sector itself (I
think you are) does not produce surplus value?

I will admit that the whole subject of productive vs. unproductive labor
can get rather complex when we discuss individual situations.  For
instance, there are educators who might be seen as being partially
productive and partially unproductive (to give just one example).  The issue
gets even more complex when we discuss the reproduction of the
commodity, labor power.

What thoughts do you (or anyone else) have on this thread?


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