[OPE-L:8401] Re: Electronics and Value

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Tue Jan 28 2003 - 09:50:37 EST

Re Paul A's [8395]:

>  The general idea of my post was this: that Marx seems to
> be suggesting that as direct simple labor recedes in importance to
> the production of goods -- to be benefit of (a) very
> "complex" labor (that embodies in "living" form society's accumulate
> scientific and technical knowledge) and (b) automated equipment (that
> embodies, in "dead" form, a growing body of science and technology)
> -- the the yardstick of (exchange) value on which the functioning of
> the capitalist systems function relies -- socially necessary labor
> time -- loses its ability to effect the essential coordinating
> function.  We should therefore observe a growing reliance on
> conventional, rather then "economically determined" prices.

Another way of thinking about this process is that over the long term
an increase in scientific and technical knowledge leads to a _change_
in SNLT.  That is, SNLT can still perform just as important a
coordinating role but the actual standard of what counts as "socially
necessary" labor time changes.  From that perspective,  increases in
general knowledge and skill levels can transform SNLT itself.   Thus, skills
that at a previous point in history might have been considered to be
"complex" in some social formations (e.g. literacy, basic math aptitude,
etc.) have now become part of a 'new' standard of SNLT.

A couple of other comments:

a)  whereas you counterpoise simple to complex labor
above, Marx in the section of the Economic Manuscripts of 1857-58
that has been under discussion counterpoises necessary labor time to
"superfluous labour time".   Indeed, he suggests that capital "posits
superfluous labour time to an increasing degree as a condition --
*question de vie et de mort* ["a matter of life and death, JL] --
for necessary labour time" [MECW; 19; 91-92].   Yet, it seems to
me that his proposition concerning the increasing importance of
"superfluous labour" is quite different from your claim about the
increasing importance of skilled labor.  What might be interesting to
ask is: does an increase in "superfluous labour", e.g. as manifested
in an increasing proportion of laborers who survive through other means
than selling LP to capital in exchange for a wage,  represent a form in
which "the material conditions for exploding" the basis of capitalism
can present itself?

b) more generally, Marx's claim here also seems to be that with the
advance of capital accumulation a greater proportion of workers will be
*unproductive laborers*  who are wage-workers employed by
capital and this  (rather than modern industry or automation per se)
undermines value.  Thus, he wrote in this same section that capital wishes
to increasingly take the "enormous social forces" that  previously created
value and "confine them within the limits necessary to maintain as value the
value created" (Ibid, 92).

c) although Marx doesn't mention state labor in this context, perhaps
his comments about how capital increasingly "confines" workers to the
maintenance rather than the creation of value could be extended to that
subject.  E.g. are  armies and navies (such as the U.S. armed forces
now in the Gulf area) created and deployed in order to "maintain as value
the value created"?

> My hunch is that
> this would have several consequences that add to the instability of
> capitalism.

Quite probably.  But you previously suggested in [8373]  that:

   "instability' -- leaving aside the question of macro economic crises
   (that's an open question!) then, I read him [Marx, JL] to say,
   growing instability in each specific market".

That is, you explicitly put the subject of macroeconomic instability
to one side and claimed that in "each specific market" instability
will increase.  It is that microeconomic claim that I took issue with.
I see no evidence that Marx  shared that microeconomic claim and I
don't think that the empirical and historical evidence supports such
a claim either.    On the contrary,  _even when_ most branches of
production exhibit increasing instability there are still other branches
of production which remain relatively stable and indeed might exhibit
greater stability.  This phenomena, a consequence of the process of
uneven development of capital,  is important to comprehend for the
study of urban and regional political economy (and for 'microeconomic'
and class analyses).

Solidarity, Jerry

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