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Dinstinction Between Productive And Unproductive Labour

Outline Some Of The Ways The Dinstinction Between Productive And Unproductive Labour Have Been Drawn

‘Debates about what is real work have been taking place since the birth of economics in the 18th Century’. (D103 p 33) The way work is organised … defines our economy and the meaning of economic activity’. (i.b.i.d. p 9) There are two definitions of work. Firstly, activities done in order to bring in money as payment for the person doing it, based on exchange in the public domain, which may be seen as productive work.

Secondly, activities that contribute to the reproduction of society, usually unpaid and undertaken in the private domain, which may been seen as unproductive work. Many activities fall into both categories but it is the ‘social context in which an activity is done which determines whether a particular activity is seen as work or not’. (i.b.i.d. p 10) This essay will outline some of the ways the distinction between productive and

unproductive labour has been drawn and see if the theories based on these distinctions have been successful in explaining the poor growth of the British economy especially during the 1970’s.

Within the economy only paid work is recognised but a great deal of unpaid work, often carried out in the home, particularly domestic labour and caring for children, is vital to the reproduction of society. However, ‘the identification of paid labour with work tends to make non-paid forms of work such as housework, charitable work and voluntary work slip from view and become invisible’. (i.b.i.d. p 134) As well as unpaid

labour, the ‘armed services, law enforcement officers, all public employees, domestic staff, servants and even the Sovereign are seen as unproductive labour because they do not produce a product for sale’. (i.b.i.d. p 36) These people are employed for the usefulness of the services they provide to their employers but it is seen to be ‘the mark of a well-developed economy that a large number of people can be employed in providing services for the rest of the community’. (i.b.i.d. p 40) It may not be the case that productive labour is more desirable than unproductive labour. ‘It must be emphasised that all the civilised activities of a modern society are wholly or largely non-marketed. Most universities, schools, libraries and hospitals produce outputs...

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