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Nearer to Straffa than Marx: Adam Smith on productive and unproductive labour

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  • Roy Grieve

    (Department of Economics)

Abstract

We investigate Adam Smith’s analysis of the properties of what he called “productive†- as against “unproductive†- labour, a concept which commentators have frequently found problematic. Puzzles have been noted and inconsistency alleged. A question arises – did Smith confuse two different concepts of productive labour? We believe that, despite the apparent problems, a coherent reading of Smith’s account of productive and unproductive labour is in fact possible: if “productive labour†is understood to refer comprehensively to labour which not only maintains but, through producing a net surplus, adds to the community’s stock of wealth – as regards either the financial or the real resources which make possible economic growth – the difficulties with Smith’s treatment largely disappear.

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File URL: http://www.strath.ac.uk/media/departments/economics/researchdiscussionpapers/2013/13-04FINAL.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Strathclyde Business School, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 1304.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: May 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:str:wpaper:1304

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Keywords: Productive/unproductive labour; basic/non-basic goods; surplus production;

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