Nearer to Sraffa than Marx: Adam Smith on Productive and Unproductive Labour
AbstractWe investigate Adam Smithâ€™s analysis of the properties of what he called â€œproductiveâ€ - as against â€œunproductiveâ€ - labour, a concept which commentators have frequently found problematic. Puzzles have been noted and inconsistency alleged. A question arises â€“ did Smith confuse two different concepts of productive labour? We believe that, despite the apparent problems, a coherent reading of Smithâ€™s account of productive and unproductive labour is in fact possible: if â€œproductive labourâ€ is understood to refer comprehensively to labour which not only maintains but, through producing a net surplus, adds to the communityâ€™s stock of wealth â€“ as regards either the financial or the real resources which make possible economic growth â€“ the difficulties with Smithâ€™s treatment largely disappear.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE) in its series SIRE Discussion Papers with number 2013-36.
Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Productive/Unproductive Labour; Basic/Non-basic Goods; Surplus Production;
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2013-12-29 (All new papers)
- NEP-HME-2013-12-29 (Heterodox Microeconomics)
- NEP-HPE-2013-12-29 (History & Philosophy of Economics)
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