(OPE-L) Re: Babbage and Marx

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Sun Mar 28 2004 - 09:36:05 EST

Hi Paul C.

> Depends on the particular product.
> I illustrate my argument
> initially with the Roman Samian ware industry which introduced
> industrialised mass production of consumer goods thanks
> to adopting moulding technology for ceramics rather than
> turning them on a wheel.
> In that case the measure of productivity would be
> plates produced per worker.

What often happens with technological advances in the means
of production is that the material form (and hence use-value) of
the commodity is altered.  I.e. it often times happens that with
advances in constant capital that allow for commodities to be
produced at a lower per unit cost, the material character of
the commodity is also transformed.  In the context of the example
you give,  is it only a matter of increased productivity in the
production of the plates or have the plates themselves been
materially changed?  E.g. is there an increase or decrease in
embellishment?  Is the shape the same?  Are the non-labor
circulating inputs the same?  The reason this has significance in
measuring the extent of the productivity increase is two-fold:

1) a change in the final material form of the commodity could
_itself_ alter the the labor hour requirements to produce the

2) if there is a change in the non-labor circulating capital inputs
this, as well, could alter the total labor hours (or fractions thereof)
required to produce a unit of output.

Clearly, labor productivity _has_ gone up in the example you
cite. Similarly,  it is generally known in other branches of production
in contemporary capitalism when productivity has increased.  But,
it is often no simple task to measure the _magnitude_ of that change.

> The modern world is dominated by copying technology.
> The improvement in the productivity of the semiconductor
> industry which has allowed continual exponential growth
> in production at a rate of around 40% per annum is all
> based on the perfection of copying technology. In this
> case the productivity would be measured in terms of
> transistors produced per labour hour.

The semiconductor industry is a good example of how
alongside increases in labor productivity there is also often a
increased quality of the commodity product.  That increased
quality can be seen in increases in processor speed.  The 'new
generation' transistors  could also be seen as a _different_
commodity (having an altered use-value) being produced.

In solidarity, Jerry

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