[OPE-L:617] Digression: Forms of Tech. Change

John R. Ernst (ernst@pipeline.com)
Fri, 1 Dec 1995 16:05:41 -0800

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Are there two basic types of technical change
in Marx's CAPITAL? It would seems so.

In his discussion of the FRP, Marx states
that to increase productivity ten fold, one
need not invest ten times as much in plant
and equipment. However, one must invest
about ten times as much in raw materials.
This kind of technical change could well
be called "capital saving" even though
there is increased investment in fixed
capital. (See Chapter 15, Bk. 3, Sec. 4,
paragraphs one and two.)

Far more familiar to readers of CAPITAL is
the idea that technical change is "labor
saving." That is, there may be a three-fold
increase in the outlay for plant and equipment
and only a two-fold increase in productivity
provided that the savings in variable capital
provoke the capitalist into seeing this invest-
ment as an increase in his initial rate of
profit. (See Chapter 15, Bk. 3, Sec 4,
paragraphs 3-5, written by Engels.) Engels
correctly refers readers to Book I as he
goes into this type of technical change.


By failing to distinguish between these two
distinct forms of technical change, much
confusion arises in FRP discussions. The
"labor saving" form of technical change is
given emphasis to assure a fall in the FRP,
while the other form is deemed non-existent
or, simply, ignored.

John Ernst