[OPE-L:8237] Re: electronics and value

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Thu Dec 26 2002 - 10:49:06 EST

Re [5234]:

Marx obviously didn't discuss "the issue itself" -- electronics 
and value -- in the _Grundrisse_.  And he certainly didn't
present the more general issue in cartoon form like:

In this short and suggestive section of the _Grundrisse_ (pp. 704-707,
Penguin ed.), Marx asserts that with the development of science,

"Labour no longer appears *so much* to be included within the
production process; rather, the human being comes to relate more as 
a watchman and regulator to the production process itself" (705; 
emphasis added, JL)  

and that: 

"Labour steps to the side of the
production process instead of being its chief actor" (Ibid).   

This might be seen as a premonition of the 'factory of the future'  
(a factory without workers such as a flexible manufacturing system 
[FMS]).  Yet, note that Marx has *qualified* his statements above, 
e.g. "appears so much", "chief" [actor].  Later, he goes on to write
that capital 

"calls to life all the powers of science and of nature,
as of social combination and of social intercourse, in order to 
make the creation of wealth independent (*relatively*) of the
labour time employed in it" (Ibid, p. 706, emphasis added, JL).

Note again the qualification -- "relatively".

Marx goes on to write:

"Forces of production and social relations -- two different sides
of the development of the social individual -- appear to capital
as a mere means, and are merely means for it to produce on 
its material foundation.  In fact, however, *they are the 
material  conditions to blow the foundation 
sky-high* " (Ibid, emphasis added, JL).

Does this mean that value will end of its own accord when the
last worker is expelled from the production process?   Hardly.

What it asserts, I believe, is something more simple:  as
workers are rendered increasingly 'superfluous', the material
conditions for heightened class struggle are present and it is
that struggle which has the capacity to "blow the foundation 

More concretely, this could be interpreted as meaning that 
the expulsion of workers from the production process lays
the material conditions for heightened struggles by workers over  
employment,  unemployment, and changing forms of employment.
(NB: the creation of the material conditions _alone_ do not 
necessarily result in a heightened intensity of class struggle --
the self-activity and subjectivity of the working-class is required).

This struggle might be intensified over issues surrounding the 
diffusion of electronics,  but the conclusion that "electronics lay
the basis for the destruction of the value system" is problematic.
Wasn't there a material basis for the destruction of the value 
system before the advent of the age of electronics?  In any event,
it is important to note that alongside the loss of employment on the
micro level due to the spread of labor-saving forms of technical 
change in means of production there are *also* the creation of
new branches of production which employ workers.  This does not
mean, of course, that there will be a 'balance' between the workers
who are technological displaced and those who are hired in other
branches of production for which there is an increasing demand for
labour-power.  Indeed, it is important to note that there is technological
change going on in *all* branches of production: thus, for example, 
less workers were employed by robotic manufacturers than many
authorities anticipated since robotics were used to expel workers
from the robotic-manufacturing process, i.e. flexible manufacturing
systems were created, in some cases, where robots (and related
technologies, such as numerical control cells) produced robots
with only minimal and nominal living labor required.  

What has to be considered, in addition, is  the importance of 
wage rates versus the cost of new more advanced means of production 
in the investment decision by capitalists.  While there are some control
advantages of having robots (e.g.  robots don't have to go to the
restroom or eat or require vacation time or time to sleep and they
can't form a union and  intentionally resist speed-up or go on strike),
the cost of employing robots vs. employing living labor is a crucial
factor.  And one has to recall that as the size of the industrial 
reserve army increases,  there is downward pressure on wages.  
Put within the context of the current international economy, this 
may mean that it might cost corporations less to employ less-
advanced means of production in areas of the world where wages
are relatively very low (and where the IRA tends to be very high)
than to employ the more advanced latest "electronic" production 
technology.  The mass poverty in so many parts of the world, it 
should be recalled, is _not_  primarily a consequence of 'electronic
production'.   Yet, that poverty has an impact on the diffusion 
period for these technologies.

In any event,  the section of the _Grundrisse_  cited by  "D. Adami"
does not make the assertions about the "destruction of value" that 
the article below makes (although there is a discussion in the 
_Grundrisse_ elsewhere re the destruction of value).  Hence, it
can not help us answer the following questions posed by the Davis

In solidarity, Jerry 

  Subject: [OPE-L:8228] electronics and value
  A short paper --
  "The Shape of History:  Historical 
  Materialism, Electronics and Value"
  published  online by the Institute for the Study of the 
  Science of Society:
  (This appears to be a condensed version of a paper entitled
  "The End of Value" by Jim Davis which was 
  presented at the 2000 'Rethinking Marxism' conference in 
  Amherst, Mass.: http://scienceofsociety.org/discuss/eov.html  ).

  The last section in the above article called "Value in the age 
  of robots"  has several paragraphs on *the "many ways" 
  that value is destroyed*.  

  Some of the many ways, it is asserted, include:
  *  the use-value of labor-power is destroyed.
  *  electronics-based production leads to a situation 
     "where fewer people have the money to buy 
     commodities".  I.e.  commodity values aren't realized.
  *  "when a new product made by robots appears 
      alongside the same product made with labor, the 
      value in the old products is driven down to the level 
      of the robot-made product -- its value is destroyed".
  *  "As new labor-less forms of production become more 
      widespread, the social infrastructure that was built 
      to sustain industrial production is also destroyed as 
      social investment is pulled out of the communities of 
     former workers".

  -- Do others agree that the instances cited are cases  where 
      value has been 'destroyed'?   
  -- Are the authors  confused, e.g. are they confusing a change 
     in the distribution of value with the destruction of value?
  --  Are the above assertions supported or contradicted by the 
      empirical evidence?
  --  What are the legitimate senses in which we can refer to the
      destruction of value?
  (snip, JL)

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