[Marxism] meaning of labor time in Capital

S. Artesian sartesian at earthlink.net
Sun Apr 19 07:32:05 MDT 2009

JB is certainly correct.  But just as certainly, only partially correct. All 
labor  is not paid for in capitalism.  The  role of unpaid domestic labor in 
the reproduction of capital has considerable importance but not, IMO, as a 
secret source of  uncompensated labor specific to developing or developed 

Also, I don't think Marx's omission of an investigaton of unpaid domestic 
labor constitutes a "blind spot" in his analysis of capital and in Capital.

Firstly,  Marx is analyzing the capitalism that produces and is produced by
wage-labor [and obviously, vice-versa].  He is, from beginning to end, 
analyzing a social relation of production that reproduces that social 
relation, and the classes that constitute that social relation.

Hence for Marx  productive labor, useful labor, socially necessary
labor, is labor that adds to, increases, the mass of capital, the 
capitalists' [ownership of the] means of production, and that increases the 
mass of value and values.   These values in their circulation, distribution, 
and ultimate consumption [or waste and devaluation], reproduce the class of 
capitalists as just that, the class of workers as just that.  Exchange is 
always about realizing the value expropriated from the labor that animates 
both the means of production and the relation of ownership of the means of 

Marx is not making a "moral" judgment about labor in using the words 
productive, or socially necessary.  He is making a class analysis.

Certainly other labor, the products of other labor, can and must be absorbed 
into these markets-- slave production of cotton, sugar, rice, tobacco, gold, 
etc.-- and through this integration into exchange take on all the 
characteristics of the products of wage-labor-- except for THE critical 
relation between capital and wage-labor where capital accumulates not just 
through the aggrandizement of labor, but simultaneously through its 
EXPULSION from the production process-- but that's a big topic for another 

Unpaid domestic labor is certainly not unique to capitalism-- rural 
subsistence production, or "subsistence + surplus" production which did not 
employ wage-labor but utilized "cooperative" family labor exploited women's 
labor without respite.  [Good book that explores some of this is The Roots 
of Rural Capitalism -- Western Massachusetts 1780-1860  by Christopher 
Clark].  And Philip CC Huang's studies of the peasant economy in China also 
give some insight into the role of this uncompensated labor.

To argue however, as JB does, that imperial privilege has provided a floor, 
and a level of compensation for domestic labor to maintain reproduction of 
the family is to exhibit a blind spot at least as large as the one being 
criticized.  The argument basically maintains that imperial privilege 
provides a higher wage to workers in the privileged country, and that higher 
wage includes compensation for domestic labor.

The argument ignores the impacts of women's entry into the labor force since 
the end of WW2; it ignores the stagnant real wages of workers over the past 
30-35 years; it ignores the increase in two wage-earner families since 1979 
as single incomes have proven insufficient, and it ignores that these 
changes have taken place during periods of increased "imperial extraction" 
[my quotes on my words], periods of decreased imperial extraction, and in 
fact have been determined not by any degree, rate, or mass of imperial 
largesse, but by the bourgeoisie's needs to maintain and increase profits 
through increased exploitation of its wage-laborers engaged in social 

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Joaquin Bustelo" <jbustelo at gmail.com>
To: <sartesian at earthlink.net>
Sent: Saturday, April 18, 2009 10:42 PM
Subject: Re: [Marxism] meaning of labor time in Capital 

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