Nearer to Straffa than Marx: Adam Smith on productive and unproductive labour
Productive/unproductive labour; basic/non-basic goods; surplus production
We investigate Adam SmithÃƒÂ¢ââ€šÂ¬ââ€žÂ¢s analysis of the properties of what he called ÃƒÂ¢ââ€šÂ¬Åâ€œproductiveÃƒÂ¢ââ€šÂ¬ÂÂ - as against ÃƒÂ¢ââ€šÂ¬Åâ€œunproductiveÃƒÂ¢ââ€šÂ¬ÂÂ - labour, a concept which commentators have frequently found problematic. Puzzles have been noted and inconsistency alleged. A question arises ÃƒÂ¢ââ€šÂ¬ââ‚¬Å“ did Smith confuse two different concepts of productive labour? We believe that, despite the apparent problems, a coherent reading of SmithÃƒÂ¢ââ€šÂ¬ââ€žÂ¢s account of productive and unproductive labour is in fact possible: if ÃƒÂ¢ââ€šÂ¬Åâ€œproductive labourÃƒÂ¢ââ€šÂ¬ÂÂ is understood to refer comprehensively to labour which not only maintains but, through producing a net surplus, adds to the communityÃƒÂ¢ââ€šÂ¬ââ€žÂ¢s stock of wealth ÃƒÂ¢ââ€šÂ¬ââ‚¬Å“ as regards either the financial or the real resources which make possible economic growth ÃƒÂ¢ââ€šÂ¬ââ‚¬Å“ the difficulties with SmithÃƒÂ¢ââ€šÂ¬ââ€žÂ¢s treatment largely disappear.