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