[OPE-L:3362] Re: Re: objectivity of value

From: Michael Perelman (michael@ecst.csuchico.edu)
Date: Fri May 26 2000 - 00:33:13 EDT

[ show plain text ]

Rakesh Bhandari wrote:

> I would be most interested in what you think about Fred's idea that Marxism
> provides a superior theory of current technical change, i.e., the
> importance of reducing unproductive labor through on line buying?

I have to confess ignorance here since I'm not sure what either you or Fred

Online buying might reduce unproductive labor or it just might make people in
other businesses unproductive while the muck around on the Internet looking for
things to buy while at work. At this point, I suspect Wal-Marts does more
relative to the mom-and-pop store than the Internet does to Wal-Marts.

> And what
> effects will computers have on the U/P labor ratio, idle circulation time,
> the turnover of capital in general, the rationalisation of inventories,
> economies of scale,--in short profitability.

Besides the obvious points that you're making here, the Internet shopping also
increases the fixed relative to the variable costs. So if real competition,
prices could conceivably drop in such a way that profits would suffer

Also, computers probably do a great deal to lower the organic composition of

> I think most of the world forgets--though certainly not you--that Marx did
> not only theorize technological innovation as a productive labor saving
> phenomena.
> Someone like Robert Gordon is not studying the possible effects of the
> computer revolution on profitability in Marxian categories. His anti hype
> may be right, but I don't think it should not mean much to us unless
> reworked.

You are correct again. Also, I appreciate the humor of your next comment.

> While he should have been trying to figure out how to construct a
> composite commodity as an invariant measure of value to study effects of
> changing distribution in an otherwise self identical system, Marx seems to
> have lost himself in studying the industrial revolution in its totality:
> :
> "The chief means of reducing the time of circulation is improved
> communications. The last 50 years have brought about a revolution in this
> field, comparable only to the industrial revolution of the latter half of
> the 18th century [!]...the macadamized road...displaced by railway...the
> sailing vessel...been pushed into the background by the praid and
> dependable steamboat line, and the entire globe is being girdled by the
> telegraph wires....the period of turnover of the total world commerce has
> been reduced...the efficacy of the capital involved in it has been more
> than doubled or trebled [an important back of the envelope calculation!].
> It goes without saying that this has not been without effect on the rate of
> profit."

I am just looking at the globalization book by Williamson and O'Rourke, who
explained the great convergence in real wages during the second half of the
19th-century because of the massive labor migrations together with these
reductions in transport costs.

Michael Perelman
Economics Department
California State University
Chico, CA 95929

Tel. 530-898-5321 E-Mail michael@ecst.csuchico.edu

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed May 31 2000 - 00:00:12 EDT