RE: [OPE] "Parasitism" Ford versus Soros

From: Paul Cockshott <>
Date: Sun Jan 25 2009 - 17:19:58 EST

What I said was that his process of producing relative surplus value was progressive.
I did not say that he produced the value, but that he introduced the new process of production.
I did not say that 'entrepreneurial ability' produces surplus value, but I do hold that
the re-organisation of the process of production is necessary for the production
of relative surplus value. Of course the motivation for this reorganisation initiated
by the capitalist is to gain a super profit for himself, but in the process he
reduces the labour necessary to produce cars.
Once cars enter into the real wage, any saving in the labour necessary to produce them
tends to produce relative surplus value. It also, however, transformed something
which had been a luxury product into something that working class people could
afford, which was a definitely progressive step.
I think you would be hard put to find examples of similar improvements in production
technology initiated by feudal lords.
The industrial capitalist is thus more progressive than the feudal lord in his effects
on the general development of production. The rentier fraction of the bourgeoisie
represents a reversion towards the mode of life of the unproductive feudal aristocracy.
In Britain the transition to a rentier class went hand in hand with a process of
aping the mode of life of the landed aristocracy.
Paul Cockshott
Dept of Computing Science
University of Glasgow
+44 141 330 1629


From: on behalf of GERALD LEVY
Sent: Sun 1/25/2009 7:32 PM
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
Subject: RE: [OPE] "Parasitism" Ford versus Soros

> The point I was making was that certain capitalists perform a productive role - Henry Ford the first
> for example, by devising new and more productive methods in industry. His process of producing
> relative surplus value was historically progressive.
Hi Paul C:
Henry Ford didn't _produce_ surplus value; (most of) the workers at Ford Motor Company did.
To contribute to the pre-conditions for producing surplus value is different from actually producing it.
You're not claiming that 'entreprenourial ability' produces surplus value, are you?
At one time in history, feudal lords - and even slave-owners! - could be viewed as being
historically progressive. That doesn't alter the fact that lived off of the surplus labor performed
by serfs and slaves respectively and were thus parasitic even at the same time as they
were (from a certain standpoint) historically progressive.
I fear that your dichotomy tends in the direction of 'good capitalist' vs. 'bad capitalists'.
The point, though, isn't whether capitalists are good or bad (a moral judgment). The point,
rather, has to do with the source of surplus value and profit.
In solidarity, Jerry
PS: alongside introducing the assembly line in the automobile industry, Ford was also
responsible for introducing the form of labor relations which came to be associated with
Harry Bennett. The notorious Service Department, the assembly line, and the Five Dollar Day
were all related to each other: the increase in productivity allowed Ford to pay higher wages
($5 / day) which, in turn, made it easier for the FMC to impose draconian working
conditions and outrageous shop rules (such as the injunction against talking in the
plant cafeteria while having lunch). Also, at the same time as the assembly line
increased surplus value via technological change, it also resulted in practice in a sharp
increase in the intensity of labor and increased absolute surplus value.

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Received on Sun Jan 25 17:21:50 2009

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