[Marxism] MLause on Clarifying the term "petty bourgeoisie"?

Ilyenkova at aol.com Ilyenkova at aol.com
Sun Aug 15 14:41:27 MDT 2004

On August 14 Rdkrnstdt wrote:

>In my posting citing Marx' description of the PB, I attempted, successfully 
think, to take the category from the realm of sociological insult to that of 
economic description.<

In moving this petty bourgeois toothache from the realm of "sociological 
insult" to economic description
RDkrn... does the discussion a large favor. His examples of the relations 
between the old working
manufacturer and the wage worker are fine, as far as they go. However, in the 
USA's technologically advanced
economy the emphasis more usefully might be placed in the realm of the 
realization of surplus value and the
expanded reproduction of capital, than in the production process. 

Considering the magnitude of total capital in the circuit of accumulation, 
the "sales effort" as Baran and Sweezy emphasized, occupies a huge space in the 
division of social labor. In Marx's general formula M-C-M1, where M 
is the initial outlay of money capital; C, the mass of commodity value 
produced (and containing c  + v  + s) ; and,
M1 is the monetary form of expanded value a process of circulation in the 
market must occur for the materialized surplus value to be monetized.

The realization process requires all sorts of distributive capital and labor. 
For purposes of this discussion let's 
consider everybody's favorite: The car salesperson. Since I once actually had 
this job I'll use the 1st person: 

I put on my snazzy suit, stand around the showroom for eight hours under the 
eyes of the "boss" (in fact a representative of the owner of the dealership). 
I've got to move 2 cars per week (about $30,000 worth of  cars) or 
the boss will sack me because unsold inventory isn't just taking up lot 
space; it's piling up interest charges on the dealer's credit. So I make my sales.

What's happened? The surplus value stored in the cars has been realized. Out 
of that surplus value is deducted: The dealer's rent or mortgage, the bank's 
carrying interest, and my commission inter alia. The rest remits to GM, Ford or 
Toyota etc. What, as we used to say, economistically, is my "relationship to 
the means of production?" Am 
I another wage laborer? I earn a wage plus commission; my labor time is 
totally controlled by the boss; and I 
can be fired at any time. And, I don't earn more than the autoworkers who 
produced the cars! I'm exploited, and I
feel like any other worker. Ergo: I am a worker (says common sense).

On the other hand, my pay comes from the distribution of the produced surplus 
value. The price of my sales work
is an aliquot portion of the cost to capital of its own accumulation. As one 
whose labor "realizes surplus value" 
doesn't Joe or Jane car seller occupy a qualitatively different place within 
the relations of production and circulation, 
than the manufacturing worker? Or from the socially necessary but 
non-productive labor of the computer programmer
or other IT worker, nurse, x-ray tech, letter carrier etc. And isn't this 
also the case for all of those ad workers, 
marketing people, bank credit officers etc. who are paid to realize surplus 
value? (A caveat here: The truckdriver who delivers the cars from factory to 
dealer is not being paid to realize surplus value. He or she is simply getting 
paid to transport commodities. So, I don't think, the "car seller" as petit 
bourgeois can be dispensed by reductio ad absurdam). Sociologically, I'd feel a 
lot better about those days if someone could convince me I was just another 
wage worker.

Considered in the light of Marx's economics we do have quite a large petit 
bougeoisie. But it doesn't include teachers, the snobby clerk at Lord & Taylors, 
or the Verizon telemarketer.

More information about the Marxism mailing list