(OPE-L) Rising organic composition (was: From Ian Wright on Weeks....)

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Mon May 26 2003 - 21:47:30 EDT

>>  At 15:17 20/05/2003 +0100, Paul Cockroft wrote:
>>>My hypothesis, based mainly on the history of British capitalism, the
>>>historical lead example is that once the latent reserve army of labour,
>>>both internal and external is exhausted, then over accumulation of
>>>capital occurs with the following effects:
>>>1. Organic compositions tend to rise
>>>2. Demand for a static or falling labour pool inhibits constrains
>>>     the production of surplus value
>>>3. Inherent tendancies towards deflation set in in consequence which
>>>     can only be masked by monetary and fiscal intervention by the
>>>    state.
>>>4. As a consequence of factor 2, the social weight and influence of
>>>     the working class rises.
>>>5. A combination of 3 and 4 lead to an increasing pressure to use
>>>     non-capitalist modes of accumulation - raising the issues of
>>>     social control of accumulation as live political issues.

I responded:

>>         I'm not certain that I understand the reasoning here. If #1 is
>> occurring, then it does so by recreating the reserve army. And the
>> impulse to this is greater, the more the labour pool is static or
>> falling. So, if workers are displaced, if the resulting weakness (all
>> other things equal) of the working class means a rising rate of
>> exploitation, how do you get to #4 ( not to mention for that matter #2)?
>> The argument might hold without #1, but there was a section 2 to Vol. I, Ch25.

Paul answered on 22/05/2003 +0100 with respect to my comment re #1:

>This is a serious misconception.
>Organic compisition rises if the rate of accumulation of capital is
>greater than the rate of growth of the employed population of wage labourers.
>This is compatible both with a shrinking employed population
>or a rising employed population .
>The rest of your argument depends on this point.

         It is certainly possible that I have misconceived Marx's argument.
So, let's go through this step by step to see if this is true:

A. Paul's statement about the organic composition is true. Indeed, it is
true by definition.
B. But, WHY does the organic composition of capital rise?
         1. Does it have anything to do with the relative rates of
accumulation and the additions to the labour supply?
         2. Does the rise in the organic composition have anything to do
with the substitution of means of production for direct labour?
C. Does the substitution of means of production for direct labour replenish
the reserve army of labour?
D. Does the rise in the organic composition of capital have anything to do
with the rate of surplus value?

         I think these relations are necessary to specify before
concluding, as Paul has, that a rising organic composition leads to
inadequate production of surplus value and a strengthening of the working

         in solidarity,
          Michael L

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Cuba. Can be reached via:

Michael Lebowitz
Calle 13 No. 504 ent. D y E, Vedado, La Habana, Cuba
Codigo Postal 10 4000
(537) 33 30 75 or 832  21 54
telefax (at night): (537) 33 30 75

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