Surplus value, profit & service workers

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at
Tue Apr 30 14:28:33 MDT 1996

Over on the pond, Lisa ventures on to thin ice:

>I wonder, can't "surplus value" be read as making sense outside of
>commodity production?  I know Marx presented his analysis primarily
>in terms of commodity production, but, in keeping with the "product
>of capital is profit", doesn't a service worker in some way produce
>profit, i.e. some gross income to the owner that is above the wages
>of the worker?  Then this is hir production of profit, and the
>definition of exploitation.

It can be read any way you like.

The problem here is that there is such a vague definition of 'services' in
bourgeois economics.

If you remove commodities from their central position in Marx's analysis,
the whole shabang comes tumbling down. It is precisely the weakness of
capitalism that it is organized around the production of commodities which
combine a use value and an exchange value. The social relations between the
producers and the owners of the means of production end up being mediated
by things (sometimes perhaps of dubious materiality), by commodities,
instead of being consciously organized for the material and cultural
benefit of the producers in free association.

It is good to keep the economic definition of exploitation (donating unpaid
labour to the capitalist) apart from the more common-sense definition of
brutally driving people to produce things or services for you. The one is
historical and precise, the other is universal and a bit moralizing -
depending on who uses it. The confusion of the two has caused huge problems
in relation to Stalinism and its exploitation (common-sense definition) of
Soviet labour. The whole of the State Capitalist theory is predicated on
this confusion!



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