Productive and Unproductive Labour
According to Schumpeter the debate on productive and unproductive labour was nothing but a ‘dusty museum piece’ (Schumpeter 1954, p. 628). And indeed, after the achievement of marginal utility theory, there was no need to distinguish between productive and unproductive labour, because all labour producing ‘useful and scarce’ things was to be considered as productive. So the meaning of ‘productive’ covers the whole field of economic goods. Albeit cautiously, Marshall suggested dropping this kind of terminology. ‘Whenever we use the word Productive of itself [says Marshall] it is to be understood to mean productive of the means of production, and of durable sources of enjoyment. But it is a slippery term, and should not be used where precision is needed. If ever we want to use it in a different sense, we must say so: for instance we may speak of labour as productive of necessaries, etc.’ (Marshall 1890, p. 56).
- List, F. 1841/1966. The national system of political economy. New York: A.M. Kelley.Google Scholar
- Marshall, A. 1890/1920. Principles of economics, 8th edn. London: Macmillan. Reprinted, 1972.Google Scholar
- Meek, R.L. 1976. Social science and the ignoble savage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Schumpeter, J.A. 1954. History of economic analysis. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Smith, A. 1776/1964. An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. London: Everyman’s Library.Google Scholar
- Sraffa, P. 1960. Production of commodities by means of commodities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar