Apr 15, 2017

'Art' - is it a productive or unproductive labor? Is the huge wages drawn by 'Artists' justified?

As I am translating Economics for Children written by Ranganayakamma I happen to interact with her asking clarification for many of the concepts. Just few weeks back I was translating lessons on Productive and Unproductive Labour. Right from the time I started reading Marxian Economics, I have always been wondering the privilege certain type of ‘labor’ get in this society – namely ‘Art’ – writing, journalism and in particular Acting! Is Art a productive labor or unproductive labor? The privilege, Profit and wage that this ‘sect’ gets is it justified?
While I wrote to Bapuji and Rangaji asking these questions, I got a reply which I wish to share with you all. Hope it helps!
My Question:
when we talk of productive and unproductive labour, how to place ARTS. All these musicians, dancers, actors, painters etc do not do any labor that will constitute to Production. Neither it constitutes to Intellectual labor which indirectly is connected with Production.
They call it talent, entertaining people, keeping people happy and so on.... but what is the use to society? They are being revered so special. So much of crores is being wasted in Films.... however we see some Technological advancements which brings so many things that we can't see in front of our eyes. However I feel that it is a waste.
What will happen in a socialist society, will those artists get special privilege? Now we pay to consumeART / Cinema..... its commodified... will it change in socialist society?
Answer from Bapuji:
Regarding your doubts, all these have been adequately answered by Rangaji in her 'An Introduction to Marx's 'Capital' [in 3 volumes] in chapter 5 of Part 1 in volume 2. Within this chapter there is a subchapter titled 'some specific examples' in which she talked separately about 'Labour of the writers' and 'Labour of film actors'.
Production does not mean only material production, it may be intellectual production also. [Interestingly, Marx also discusses how the labour of Milton would be productive if he works for a wage, or independent labour if he publishes for himself. Also he talks of the labour of soldiers.]
Regarding the artists there is a relevant passage in 'The German Ideology' by Marx and Engels which I will copy from her introduction.... and paste it here.
“In any case, with a communist organisation of society, there disappears the subordination of theartist to local and national narrowness, which arises entirely from division of labour, and also the subordination of the individual to some definite art, making him exclusively a painter, sculptor, etc.; the very name amply expresses the narrowness of his professional development and his dependence on division of labour. In a communist society there are no painters but only people who engage in painting among other activities.”(The German Ideology, p.417-418)
I have completed translating about 75 chapters, another 20 chapters is pending. Hope to complete it soon!
I will share those examples in Rangaji’s Book “An Introduction to Capital” in next post.

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