Letter to Graham Seaman - January 17, 2006

I have got your last text and sent it to Sander. It is very interesting and rich. I think I begin to understand your vision. I hope I'll be able soon to write some comments on what still disturbs me.

Just a remark. I know that the question of productive/unproductive labour/consumption is not the kernel of your vision of the question of the value of software. But I wanted to tell you that I agree with your formulation: "a service worker may be productive for a particular capital without being productive for capital as a whole" , except that I think it is true not only for service workers. I wrote some thing in that sense, some years ago, within the "réseau". The question was raised from different points of view: is the development of the share of services in social production a sign of senility of capitalism?

Are the service workers members of the proletariat? You can have a look at the discussions at


I am more doubtful about the idea that: "In that case, he is simply helping to redistribute surplus value created elsewhere to increase the capital he works for." It depends on how you see the "redistribution of surplus value".

You seem to mean that a worker who is unproductive for capital as a whole doesn't create surplus value. Surplus value is first surplus labour.

Things appear in a different way when you consider the global surplus *labour* extracted by capital as a whole. Any worker, independently from the form his specific activity takes, contributes to it. He is part of the "collective worker", collectively exploited and supplying capital with surplus labour. The fact that capital "sterilize" as unproductive consumption part of this surplus doesn't mean that the workers of the concerned sectors do not participate to the creation on that surplus.

You say: "if you two are happy to go on discussing this, I am too". For me it is very useful. I think it is the same for Sander and other members of IP who follow the discussion.


January 17, 2006

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