[OPE-L:8340] Re: Re: Electronics and Value

From: clyder@gn.apc.org
Date: Tue Jan 14 2003 - 16:15:49 EST

Quoting OPE-L Administrator <ope-admin@ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu>:

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Jim Davis" <jdav@gocatgo.com>
> Sent: Monday, January 13, 2003 7:14 PM
> Subject: Re: Electronics and Value (for OPE-L list)
> [Please consider posting this to the OPE-L list, in response to 8304.
> Thanks, jd]
> In response to clyder@gn.apc.org [8304]:
> > Feedback systems long predate electronics however, consider the case
> > of Watt's governor.
> I would guess that all of the concepts of the modern-day computer
> pre-date the computer (just as all of the components of the industrial
> system of Marx's day derived from manufacture). But the components
> themselves didn't represent a new system of production (for Marx's day)
> until the introduction of the steam engine; or for today, electronic or
> biologic (or some combination) components that are small, light, cheap,
> self-activating, self-reproducing, decision-making etc. etc. that can
> take over the command and control of the production process.

The crucial factor was not the steam engine, since water power
was what drove the early textile factories, it was the invention
of automatic, or in English self-acting, machinery of which the
Mule was the most important example. The key factor here is that
the sequencing of actions moves from the nervous system of the worker
to the machine itself. This has from the start been the key both
to the real subordination of labour and to the huge improvements 
in productivity brought about by industrial production. This
process of control over production has gone from mechanical, to
electro mechanical to electronic form as time has passed, but the
essence has been the same : to automate more and more of the control
functions of production. This can be analysed in terms of the
production of relative SV as per Marx. I dont see that any fundamentally
new concepts are needed.

> While it may have been possible to put together a system of automatic
> machinery with mechanical feedback systems that could feed into
> gear-driven decision-making abilities and communicate with other
> machinery using hydraulic tubes (or make a"difference engine" as
> described in the book of the same name), such a system just wouldn't
> have been practical on wide-scale basis.

Babbage only made a couple of prototypes, but the Swedish engineer
Scheikart made several which were sold commericially. One - I dont
remember if it was Baggage's or a Swedish one was used in the UK
for the 1851 census. Of course the 1880 census in the US used automatic
card punch tabulators - a relic of which technology enabled Bush to
get in recently. 

Fully self acting control systems were pioneered before the first
world war by Strowger with his automatic telephone exchange system,
the telephone technology of the 1920s and 1930s was already highly
automated but was electro-mechanical not electronic. 

There is no sudden break for electronics, just a progressive development
of new forms of automation.

> In [8278] clyder@gn.apc.org, as I understand it, was saying that
> industrial production of the 1930s was qualitatively the same as today.
> My point about the River Rouge plant was that there are substantial
> differences. Jerry's comments about modern-day factories I think better
> describe those changes than the Rouge example.

Of course there are differences but can these plants not be analysed
with the concept of relative SV

> > Are there more industrial workers in the world today than there were
> > in 1930?
> >  Clearly there are more.
> The introduction of a new quality into a process, in this case, the
> introduction of labor-replacing technology, has many contradictory,
> even paradoxical effects. (Borrowing from George Caffentzis here,) Marx
> talked about these in the discussion of counteracting influences on the
> tendency of the rate of profit to fall. (Again, Jerry lists some of
> these in [8309]) One of the paradoxes is that labor-replacing
> technology can mean that more people work harder. 

Marx refers to this paradox when commenting on the naievity of the
Gallic poet who predicted the end of female labour thanks to the
water wheel in the early centuries AD.

> That's what I tried
> to look at in the "End of Value" paper that was mentioned in the
> starting post for this thread. I think the best indicator of the march
> of labor-replacing technology I think is not in employment figures, but
> in the polarization of wealth.

Yes but this is just classic marxism.

> jd

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