Is Trade Productive?

Lou Paulsen wwchi at
Mon Oct 30 22:29:05 MST 2000

-----Original Message-----
From: David Welch <david.welch at>

First, an admission of error.

>> Indeed, Welch is willing to propose revising Marx to allow the worker
>> who brings the television from Mexico to Chicago to be 'productive'
>> (Marx clearly took the opposite position),

Referring back to volume III of capital, I find that I was quite wrong (and
Welch was right) regarding Marx's position on the issue of transportation.
Marx gives transportation special status within the costs of circulation and
allows it to be 'productive' in so far as it applies to transportation of
commodities with the production process, or to the point of sale.

But this raises, for me, the question of why the "mercantile" shipping
industry would be taken as unproductive, while shipping manufactured goods
is taken as productive

In response to my challenge to come up with some useful point to the
distinction, Welch asks,

>Well a capitalist reading this discussion might reasonably complain that
>what (s)he does is only the same as a shop worker, except on a larger
>scale and through intermediaries, why isn't this productive labour? And if
>the act of matching consumers and commodities is productive, why not
>matching constant and variable capital with the sellers of labour power?
>Doesn't our capitalist deserve to be compensated fairly for this service
>to society?

My answer: possibly.  At a worker's wages.  I actually did something like
this for about a month during my years as a railroad worker.  I was a union
clerk who called up train workers and assigned them to jobs.  If my work was
'socially necessary' to the running of the railroad, then why would my labor
not be embodied in the product?

L. Paulsen

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