[Marxism] For Karl Marx, writers of romance novels are productive workers

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jan 25 10:08:49 MST 2016

On 1/24/16 1:08 PM, Louis Proyect wrote:
> "Milton, for example, who did Paradise Lost, was an unproductive worker.
> In contrast to this, the writer who delivers hackwork for his publisher
> is a productive worker."
> https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1864/economic/ch02b.htm

I am rereading some chapters in Maurice Dobb's "Studies in the 
Development of Capitalism" to get a handle on this formal subsumption 
business since Dobb is very good on the whole handicraft evolving into 
industrial capitalism angle. Despite his reputation as being a precursor 
to Brenner because of his famous debate with Paul Sweezy, Dobb was a 
hell of a lot closer to Sweezy than he was to Brenner (as Brenner would 
probably admit.)

In any case, I came across this fascinating reference in Dobb to the 
origins of the word masterpiece that we would associate with John 
Milton, Michaelangelo, Beethoven et al. It turns out that it was 
originally a term used to describe a work submitted by a journeyman to 
qualify for entry into a guild in Medieval days. Here's wikipedia:

"Originally, the term masterpiece referred to a piece of work produced 
by an apprentice or journeyman aspiring to become a master craftsman in 
the old European guild system. His fitness to qualify for guild 
membership was judged partly by the masterpiece, and if he was 
successful, the piece was retained by the guild. Great care was 
therefore taken to produce a fine piece in whatever the craft was, 
whether confectionery, painting, goldsmithing, knifemaking, or many 
other trades."

Interesting to think that the word once used for a cake is now used 
routinely for just about everything, including Hollywood movies.

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