Monday, December 10, 2012

Marxism, Exploitation and Racial Oppression


OK, so here are a couple of half-baked thoughts regarding how best to think about racial oppression within a Marxist theoretical framework. I want to focus in particular on the strengths---and the limits---of the concept of exploitation in explaining the oppression of Black people in the contemporary US. What follows is a bit stream-of-consciousness and for that I apologize. Comments, criticisms, questions, and objections are welcome.

We can begin by noting that all workers under capitalism are exploited. Marxism gives us a technical way of understanding exploitation in terms of surplus value extracted from workers by capitalists. We needn't go through the technical details, however, to the get basic gist of the argument. All we basically need to say is that if you're a worker, what your employer pays you in wages is less than the amount of value you're expected to produce on the job---otherwise your employer wouldn't bother employing you in the first place. As Iris Marion Young puts it (summarizing C.B. MacPherson's account), workers are exploited in the sense that, under capitalism, they "exercise their capacities under the control, according to the purposes, and for the benefit of other people", namely the owners of capital.

On this model both black and white workers in a racist society---such as the US---are exploited. But black people are subjected to racial oppression whereas white workers are not. Does the Marxist concept of exploitation explain the difference?

Only partially. It is clear that colonialism and slavery---both central to understanding the origins of modern racism---were exploitative processes undertaken to enrich colonizers and slaveowners. The contemporary prison-industrial complex exhibits many of the same exploitative arrangements. We might also add that mortgage and banking practices have, for decades, through a number of different processes, ruthlessly exploited Black people by preying on their vulnerable position as a racially oppressed group.

And it is also no doubt true that, in general and as a group, Black workers in the contemporary US are subject to more intense exploitation than their white working-class counterparts---this is what is usually called "super-exploitation." The basic idea is that Black workers are subjected to the "standard" levels of exploitation as are all workers in the US, but because they are Black their employers are able to leverage racism to pay them even less and work them even harder than their white counterparts.

Still, despite the centrality of the concept of exploitation to any adequate understanding of racial oppression, it is not clear that the concept explains oppression without remainder. Although it is necessary to explain the oppression of Black people in a racist society, it is also insufficient. Oppression is a complex phenomenon that includes social processes, structures and ideological formations not captured by the mere concept of exploitation alone.

This fact---the fact that the concept of exploitation alone is insufficient to fully explain racial oppression---has led some to conclude that Marxism is simply incapable of giving a satisfying, robust, comprehensive account of racism. It is this conclusion that I would like to challenge here.

I'll begin by expressing skepticism that Marxists concerned to explain racial oppression have any reason to confine themselves to the use of the concept of exploitation alone. To be sure, exploitation has played a prominent role in the Marxist analysis---as well it should, given the important examples we examined above. But, apart from the concept of exploitation and its role in explaining the accumulation of profit---as well as the "super profits" obtained via extra-economic coercion as in slavery and colonialism---Marxists have also made regular use of concepts like oppression, domination as well as the notion of a "ruling class", all of which carry within them complaints against class societies that exceed the complaint that they are exploitative.

After all, a "ruling class" is a class that not only exploits, but one that stands above and dominates those over whom it rules. To be sure, there is a clear causal connection between the facts that a ruling class both rules and exploits---but it remains true that ruling and exploiting are, materially speaking, distinct activities. Apart from being exploited, workers are also dominated in at least two senses: they are both subject to the arbitrary will of a particular capitalist in the workplace and subject to the coercive institutions of the capitalist state. That is to say, apart from being subject to surplus-value extraction, workers are also subject to an institutional power structure---which includes state as well as non-state institutions---that is neither under their collective control nor designed to further their interests.

What the above shows is Marxists also see class relations as power relations whereby one class dominates the others and forces them to submit to social structures that are alien to their interests and beyond their control. This makes clear that Marxists have, in addition to their interest in exploitation, always had interrelated interests in questions of power, domination and political rule as well. So, the dynamics of racial oppression that have to do with the dialectics of power and powerlessness are hardly unintelligible from the Marxist point of view. They can be fruitfully analyzed in terms of social domination, understood as a materially structured relation of power in which one group subjects another to its will. Exploitation, though important, has never been the only tune in the Marxist repertoire.

Let us return more explicitly to racial oppression. Although oppression clearly involves exploitation as well as social domination, we might think that these two concepts still leave us with some unexplained remainders. Take the problem of marginalization, which is in a way the opposite of exploitation. Marginalization is, after all, precisely the condition of being excluded from---among other things---the dynamics of capitalist exploitation. As Iris Young describes it, "increasingly in the US racial oppression occurs in the form of marginalization rather than exploitation. Marginals are people the system of labor cannot or will not use... there is a growing class of people permanently confined to lives of social marginality, most of whom are racially marked." As she describes it, "marginalization... involves a whole category of people who are expelled from useful participation in social life and thus potentially subjected to severe material deprivation and even extermination." Marginalization is in many ways the central theme of Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow---and it is also the best concept available to explain the geographical dimensions of oppression that confine many Black people to urban ghettos and shut them out of the formal economy and mainsream social institutions.

Now, Young doesn't dispute the claim that workers are exploited or that many Black workers are super-exploited. The point, rather, is that, almost by definition, to be marginalized is to suffer a form of oppression that cannot be explained by the bare concept of exploitation.

Fortunately, as we've already seen, Marxists have never tried to understand societies in terms of the bare concept of exploitation alone. Though it is central to their analysis, they have always---at least when they're at their best---thought of capitalist social formations as totalities, marked by internal contradictions, structured around the dynamics of capital accumulation, ideological formations and social struggle. Exploitation is one central part of that analysis, but the capitalist system itself is much more complicated than the antagonism between capital and wage labor at the site of production. The Marxist analysis draws the whole web of relations and social processes within its scope and systematically looks at how they function within the material structure of the system. So, there is no reason to assume that Marxism can't make sense of marginalization.

In fact, I highly doubt that we can genuinely understand the political-economic and geographical processes that produce marginalization---of a particularly racist kind---without the tools of contemporary Marxism, which give us an angle on the dynamics of profit, the balance of social forces, the function of the state, and so on. I would think that the sort of political-economic analysis of housing, suburbanization and urban deindustrialization of the sort put forward by David Harvey would need to be part of any fruitful analysis of racial marginalization in the contemporary US. This analysis gives us a critical angle on the scaffolding or, if you like, the racist infrastructure within which abandonment, social/economic exclusion, disenfranchisement, criminalization and so on flourish. I would also think that Marx's analysis of the "industrial reserve army" would be a part of the story as well, although I for one think contemporary Marxists should simply discard his notion of the "lumpenproletariat".

Still, we might think that exploitation, domination and marginalization still don't fully explain racial oppression as it exists today. We might think that there is yet more to be explained---for example, we might think that the problems of cultural imperialism, on the one hand, and violence, on the other, are features of oppression that are not themselves exhausted by an examination of exploitation, domination or marginalization. Cultural imperialism and violence are surely related to those other processes, but they aren't therefore identical with them, so there's still something left to be explained. Is it true that Marxists cannot make sense of these two dynamics without giving up their overall theoretical and practical framework?

I don't think so. Before I say why I think Marxism gives us (arguably) the best critical angle on these dimensions of oppression, let me say a little bit about what they are first. Cultural imperialism has to do with oppressed groups who are, in a one-sided way, subjected to representations, ideas and so on which are alien---and usually hostile to---that group's own self-image, culture, and so on. In Europe, this might take the form of designating as "civilized" and "universal" certain traditional European practices and branding everything else---especially non-European practices---as "other", beyond the pale, "deviant", dangerous, savage, pre-modern, barbaric, particularistic, and so on. A contemporary US example of cultural imperialism that involves anti-Black racism might include any of the various ways in which "Blackness" is devalued and coded as "deviant", inferior, dangerous, criminal, delinquent, ugly, animalistic, "other", low, and so on. "Black is beautiful" was (and in many ways still is) a radical slogan precisely because of the forms of oppression in involved in cultural imperialism. One result is that groups deemed "deviant", inferior, and so on---such as Black people in the contemporary US---are under, among other things, strong pressure to assimilate and renounce their own background as a condition of "success". Groups that are systematically subjected to these interpretations, representations, and meanings are clearly oppressed.

If cultural imperialism is a somewhat complex phenomenon, however, then violence as a form of oppression is relatively straightforward. Black people in the US are systematically liable to be violently harassed, attacked, imprisoned or killed---just because they're Black. The systemic problem of police brutality is only the tip of the iceberg. This is as clear a case of oppression as there is. But does Marxism overlook this dimension of racial oppression? And can Marxism give us a convincing analysis of cultural imperialism?

Let us begin with the problem of racist violence. Marxism seems to me to give us a powerful structural analysis of racial violence inasmuch as it offers us an internationalist approach---which makes clear the role that imperialism plays---as well as a compelling theory of the State. The racist violence and physical abuse meted out by the state---whether by police, prison guards or other officials---is best explained, it seems to me, by the Marxist theory of the state. And I would argue that the international violence against non-white peoples abroad is best understood in terms of the dynamics of imperialism and global political economy. What about vigilante violence? Although technically non-State, I think it should still understood in relation to the forms of State violence we just mentioned. The State has always played a role---whether de jure or de facto, direct or indirect---in lynchings and other forms of violent racist terrorism. Racist violence is never simply a matter of individual hatred or evil persons---it is a social pathology that, like rape, must be understood politically in relation to the material structure of society.

But what about cultural imperialism? On the face of it, this is the aspect of racial oppression least amenable to a Marxist critique. But this conclusion would be hasty. There is, after all, a rich tradition of cultural criticism associated with the Marxist tradition---including figures such as Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall, Fredric Jameson, Edward Said, Terry Eagleton, Lukacs, Gramsci, among many others---which begins from the fact that culture is always embedded in material structures that are, at once, political, economic and social. To make sense of cultural imperialism in particular, however, I would use the Marxist concept of ideology, much in the way radical philosopher Tommie Shelby has done. Shelby sees racist images, symbols, ideas and so on as ideologies which stabilize and legitimate racial oppression. This is a big topic, but one thing to say here is that the major means of interpretation, communication and cultural production are under the control of dominant groups, so it's unsurprising, then, that the dominant ideas, cultural products, images, and so on tend to reflect the interests of those groups, rather than the interests of the oppressed. Moreover, oppressed groups---inasmuch as they're oppressed---usually have a hard time changing dominant ideas and images, which can make oppression self-reinforcing in certain respects. That doesn't mean that oppressed groups don't resist these ideas and images---on the contrary, the Black cultural tradition in the US is thoroughly political and, almost without exception, involves a wealth of different modes of resistance against the injuries of racism. But it does mean that dominant representations tend to be imposed on them from above rather than organically produced from below.

Also, I want to point out that---and this is surely a strength of the dialectical structure of Marxism as a theory---all of the features of oppression we've been discussing---violence, cultural imperialism, powerlessness, exploitation and marginalization---are hardly autonomous, separate and fully independent of one another. These "five faces" of oppression, as Iris Young describes them, are all, materially speaking, interwoven and interrelated in real social life. So, any assessment of the strength of Marxism as a means of making sense of cultural imperialism has to take into account that, in addition to drawing on the tradition of Ideologiekritik, it will also draw on the salience of other processes---exploitation, domination, marginalization, etc.---that play a role in the production and reproduction of cultural imperialism.

This is probably as good a place as any to stop for now. I hope I've shown that the Marxist analysis is far more sophisticated and richer than is usually supposed. As I say, this is all very provisional and I'm open to comments, criticism, objections and so on.


13 comments:

pauly said...

I actually don't think the idea of super-exploitation is particularly useful. Ultimately, this probably goes back to a particular conception of the use of exploitation in maxist theory. I tend to think of it along the lines that exploitation has two overlapping but distinguishable meanings. The first is technical, and dependent upon the labor theory of value. It is a measure of the surplus labor a worker performs above and beyond the amount required to reproduce her labor power. The second is moral/political, and has to do with the MacPherson/Young definition quoted in the post. These two senses overlap frequently, as when we describe the exploitation of fast food workers. They can also diverge, however. Public school teachers are not exploited in a value-theoretic sense, but they are exploited in a moral sense, insofar as their labor power is put to uses other than that they would choose if they were not subject to market compulsion.

The term super-exploitation seems to me accurate in the second sense, but not in the first. In other words, it's clearly true that there are more intense power differentials that black workers face, but it is not clear that, by and large, they produce more surplus value than white workers do. If it were true that it was possible to produce more surplus value systematically by paying black workers less to do equivalent jobs, it seems to me we wouldn't see the massive levels of unemployment we do in black communities.

Ultimately, I think super-exploitation connotes the first sense so strongly that, regardless of its accuracy in the second sense, it's more confusing than helpful.

t said...

Yea, so I freely admit here that I'm not very well versed in all of the debates about super-exploitation. All I'm claiming here is that employers in many cases seem to be able to leverage racist conditions to pay Black workers less than they would if they couldn't leverage racism to their advantage. I'm thinking of the "last hired, first fired" phenomenon where the vulnerability---and therefore economic desperation---of many PoC is converted into an increased rate of exploitation for the employer. I would add that super-exploitation, if it is in fact a real economic phenomenon, doesn't raise wages for white workers, but that the presence of super-exploitation lowers wages across the board. As I say, I admit that I haven't thought through this very systematically---which is probably clear from the jumbled character of my thoughts. At any rate, the question of super-expoitation is only one aspect of the more general phenomenon of racism. I would, however, say that using prison-labor is a form of super-exploitation inasmuch as it uses non-economic forms of coercion to acheive a much higher rate of exploitation than is acheivable outside of prisons.

I'm not sure that I'd agree that public school teachers aren't exploited in the value-theoretic sense. The labor of teachers is certainly a necessary condition of profitability for private capitalists. What they receive in wages does not reflect the value of what they produce in the way of future profitability for capitalists. Of course, socialists do not---and should not---judge the quality of teaching in terms of profitability or surplus value production. But its nonetheless true that the ruling class profits from the exploitation of public teacher's labor inasmuch as their activities are a necessary precondition of profitability. Profit is always at the expense of the working-class writ large. Sometimes it can appear, if we zoom in on one workplace alone, that the source of profit is coming from somewhere other than labor---say from buying cheap and selling dear, as many retailers do. But this is merely one step in the realization of surplus value created through labor, and the labor of service and retail workers should be seen as part of the overall labor involved in the realization of profit. We need to see M-C-M* as one large, complex circuit, rather than several distinct units.

I take your point about the moral/political sense versus the value-theoretic sense. I'm not sure how to integrate those. They may be different ways of thinking about the same process---i.e. practical/normative reflection versus describing the technical process involved in capitalist production. My sense is that Marx himself certainly thought exploitation was a bad thing which could and should change in the course of building a socialist society.

Anyway, thanks for the critical feedback.

pauly said...

I think we end up in quite a muddle if we try to conceptualize public school teachers as productive workers in a value-theoretic sense. After all, who is the owner and seller of the commodity they play a role in producing? Workers themselves. So at the very least, we would have to say that, unlike every other commodity, labor power is a commodity whose surplus value is not realized by its seller. This seems iffy to me. However, if we want to see public school teachers as productive in a value-theoretic sense, we have to go one step further, and say that the capitalists who purchase labor power realize the surplus value embodied in it by a previous round of production. However, this makes nonsense of the central contention of value theory: that value is conserved in exchange and expanded in production. As I see it, it is one thing to say that teachers are absolutely necessary for capitalist accumulation, but it is something else entirely to say that they are productive workers. I think this also applies to massive categories of workers in contemporary capitalism, such as human resources, and possibly workers involved in aspects of circulation. This doesn't entail cutting these workers off from the complex circuit of capital, but rather recognizing them as a necessary condition for the successful realization of surplus value, rather than producers of it.

t said...

I see what you're saying but I'm not convinced that teachers aren't productive laborers. I worry that your argument might depend upon a problematic way of understanding the production of surplus value.

Productive labor, as I understand it, means productive for capital. Teachers' labor is clearly productive for capital because it equips the workforce with certain skills, dispositions, forms of knowledge, and so on that are necessary inputs in the production process---just as the production of food and shelter and so on are necessary for the production of the working class. The marxist-feminist literature on women's reproductive and domestic labor as genuinely productive labor is instructive here.

Marx defines the value (what classical political economists would have called a "natural price") of a commodity as the socially-necessary labor time (measured in hrs) which is indirectly or directly required to produce it. Inasmuch as educational institutions---which may be either privately run or publicly run---are indirectly required for commodity production, they are productive of value in Marx's sense. This is rather obvious if we imagine a fully privatized educaitonal system. In this case, the educational system would be producing "means of production" in a sense, just like other "Department 1" enterprises in a complex capitalist economy. Captialists are well-aware that education of some kind is necessary for capital accumulation. Thus, public schools should be seen as one way that the capitalist class uses the state to secure basic conditions for accumulation.

Marx himself uses the example of a school-teacher in a for-profit school system in Capital Vol.1 to explain the what productive labor means in capitalism. His claim is that labor is productive for capital if it produces surplus value. The fact that he uses the example of the school-teacher makes clear that when workers produce surplus value, it need not inhere in physical, tangible things. Services, software, culture and ideas and techniques can be commodities. And, what's more, they can be means of production capitalists must secure to be able to exploit labor. Means of production, of course, are always themselves produced by labor, so their production needs to figure into the analysis of capitalist production as a whole (hence the Dept.1 vs Dept.2 distinction).

...to be continued

t said...

As I understand it, the wages/benefits of teachers should be seen as a cost of the reproduction of the system. Their labor produces workers with certain traits, dispositions, skills, technical forms of knowledge, and so on. These are productive forces literally produced by teachers' collective labor. But teachers' wages/benefits are determined by the cost of reproducing their labor-power over time (or by their level of collective bargaining strength) as opposed to value of their actual labor---the difference between the two represents the rate of exploitation they're subject to. Often, the state will increase their rate of exploitation to lower the costs incured by the ruling class to secure the forms of value public sector workers produce. On the balance sheet of the ruling class as a whole, the cost of teacher's wages shows up just as does the value they produce. This is more obvious when education is fully privatized and these costs are incured by workers who then require higher wages to pay for those costs in addition to basic necessities. Likewise, health care workers in Britain are exploited---even though the health care system is not itself run for profit. And when the system is run for profit, as in the US, the fact that nurses, say, perform services does not mean that they don't produce surplus value.

Think of it like this: imagine the training of workers was fully privatized and paid for by each capitalist. A coal mining company, say, pays to train its workers from crade to grave to have the skills, knowledge, dispositions, habits, etc. that are necessary for them to be "good workers" at the mine. Naturally, this training program will require teacher-laborers to do the work of actually training the workforce. Thus, on the company's balance sheet the teacher-laborers will appear as a cost---a form of variable capital---that can be higher or lower depending on the wages paid out to them. These laborer will no doubt be exploited by the capitalist, just as are the other workers. The teacher-laborers will be, in effect, just another worker in the company's complex division of labor. As such they produce surplus value and are exploited by the capitalists who own the company. What's more the owners can be said to profit at the expense of those whose labor is expended training workers. I note that similar arguments could be advanced re: reproductive labor and unwaged domestic labor in the home.

Now, nothing fundamental changes if we move from this example to a case where the state---acting on behalf of the capitalist class---takes on the cost of training the workforce. The workers doing the training continue to be exploited, but their employer changes from one individual capitalist, to an agency---the state---acting on behalf of the entire ruling class. Many times, the ruling class consents to such an arrangement because it means sharing elements of the cost of production accross the entire class---and this, of course, can increase profitability. The state is, as it were, a capitalist-like employer who either "selflessly" turns over its surplus value to the capitalist class proper directly, or accumlates it in order to help create surplus value for the ruling class in a more indirect way (imperialism, etc.).

Anonymous said...

David McNally has an interesting take on the question of the reproduction of capital/labor-power which has relevance for this discussion about public sector workers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FbTNviegh4

pauly said...

To be clear: my objection is not that teachers perform a service, and it is not that teachers in general cannot be productive laborers. It is that public school teachers cannot be conceived of as productive laborers, because they are not employed by a capitalist who sells the product of their labor on a market in order to realize its surplus value. The original critique I made, that the seller of the commodity produced by teachers - labor power - is the worker herself, still stands.

More broadly, I think there is a significant misunderstanding of the nature of value theory here. Value theory isn't about what is necessary (or productive in the mundane sense of the word) for capitalist production. Nature provides no value, but is indispensable in the creation of use values. To put a sharper point on it, the labor of upper managers and executives is clearly necessary for capitalist production. They play an invaluable role in figuring out how to squeeze workers harder. Capitalist accumulation would be impossible without someone doing that work. However, that does not make them productive workers in a value-theoretic sense. Conversely, if we use the definition I see implicit in your arguments, that productive labor is that which is necessary for capitalist accumulation, we have no way of avoiding this conclusion. In general, I think II Rubin has the best discussion of the distinction here: http://www.marxists.org/archive/rubin/value/ch19.htm

cont'd

pauly said...

On domestic labor, I think the feminist theorists who have attempted to theorize reproductive labor as productive in a value theoretic sense have ended up with an incoherent theory of capitalism. In Marx's theory, the substance of value is abstract labor. Abstract labor is commodified labor. The social relations underpinning this are the social relations of capitalism, in which employers are forced to homogenize labor inputs by the threat of market discipline. If nike's workers aren't as productive as reebok's, nike loses. They are able to homogenize labor inputs because workers lack access to the means of subsistence, and have to submit to capitalist rule in the workplace to keep their jobs. There is no remotely comparable dynamic at work in reproductive labor. There's no imperative to homogenize (and thus render abstract) the labor performed by women in households. At most, there's a psychological imperative created by advertising and mass culture, but that's clearly not comparable to the structural imperatives of capitalism. No abstract labor, no value production. No value production, no productive labor. This case is made at greater length, and great rigor, by Paul Smith in his article "Domestic Labour and Marx's Theory of Value."

To turn back to teachers, they are also disemedded from capitalist relations of production, though in a different way. Teachers are subject to market discipline, and in increasingly harsh ways these days. The difference is the role they play in commodity production. They do not produce a good which is sold by a capitalist. This is why the argument about what shows up on a balance sheet tells us nothing about what is productive labor. CEO compensation, after all, also shows up on a balance sheet, as do the forms of constant capital. The fact that capital has to pay for a certain kind of labor in order for accumulation to continue is not sufficient to determine whether that labor is productive or not.

Marx's discussion of the teacher in Vol 1 also doesn't help your case, since he is at pains to emphasize there that the teacher is working for a private capitalist who owns the school and is being enriched by the teacher's labor. A public school teacher is a very different case.

To sum up, the question of necessity is a red-herring. All kinds of labor are necessary for capitalist production which are not productive in a value-theoretic sense. That they are both necessary and unproductive is itself a contradiction of capitalism, and not an indictment of Marxist theory's unwillingness to recognize their importance. As Marx himself says, "Only bourgeois narrow-mindedness, which regards the capitalist forms of production as absolute forms-hence as eternal, natural forms of production-can confuse the question of what is productive labor from the standpoint of capital with the question of what labor is productive in general, or what is productive labor in general." They key question is that of the social relations that characterize different kinds of labor.

pauly said...

The reason I think this is important is that I think there is a tremendous lack of thinking about value theory on the American revolutionary left. I doubt there are more than 30 people active in relevant revolutionary groups (ISO, PSL, Solidarity, Socialist Alternative, PLP, FRSO) who could give a reasonable definition of the temporal single system interpretation, for example. Or who could defend value theory against the main attacks made on it by the neo-classicals and neo-ricardians. This unfamiliarity with a key room in the intellectual architecture of marxism seems a major weakness to me, and one that should be addressed.

Anonymous said...

@pauly:

Is it not an obvious reductio of your position that it entails that workers cannot, in principle, be exploited by state enterprises? Or, even worse: your position seems to entail that public-sector workers are not technically workers at all, since they aren't employed by capitalists. That is plainly absurd. How does a relation of production magically become non-exploitative when the capitalist boss is exchanged for a capitalist-state administrator?

Another reductio: your view entails that exploitation and the production of value is only possible in a commodity-producing capitalist economy. What, then, do you say about feudal and slave economies? They are plainly exploitative---in the sense that surplus-value is extracted from a laboring class by a non-laboring class---but your stipulative definition doesn't capture this.

Also, I don't think what T says above contradicts Marx's claim about productive labor. T's argument interprets what is "productive" as "what is productive for capital" as she explicitly says. I'd be curious to know what you would have to say if you addressed yourself more directly to her arguments.

Anonymous said...

@pauly: you should watch the david mcnally video posted above re: the social reproduction of labor-power. this, i think, gets to the core of the issues you raise.

Erika Smith said...

Scary Maze Game Enjoy

Anonymous said...

This passage is relevant to the status of public school teachers on the assumption that they play a vital role in reproducing the next generation of workers:

"So far as the labour-process is purely individual, one and the same labourer unites in himself all the functions, that later on become separated. When an individual appropriates natural objects for his livelihood, no one controls him but himself. Afterwards he is controlled by others. A single man cannot operate upon Nature without calling his own muscles into play under the control of his own brain. As in the natural body head and hand wait upon each other, so the labour-process unites the labour of the hand with that of the head. Later on they part company and even become deadly foes. The product ceases to be the direct product of the individual, and becomes a social product, produced in common by a collective labourer, i.e., by a combination of workmen, each of whom takes only a part, greater or less, in the manipulation of the subject of their labour. As the co-operative character of the labour-process becomes more and more marked, so, as a necessary consequence, does our notion of productive labour, and of its agent the productive labourer, become extended. In order to labour productively, it is no longer necessary for you to do manual work yourself; enough, if you are an organ of the collective labourer, and perform one of its subordinate functions. The first definition given above of productive labour, a definition deduced from the very nature of the production of material objects, still remains correct for the collective labourer, considered as a whole. But it no longer holds good for each member taken individually." http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch16.htm