[OPE-L:688] Re: Forms of Tech. Change (digression)

Paul Cockshott (wpc@clyder.gn.apc.org)
Sat, 9 Dec 1995 15:02:01 -0800

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How does one derive "relative rates of accumulation" and the growth of
the working class population without analysing the dynamic process of
technological change?

Paul C
My point is that the falling rate of profit is something that has
to be understood at the level of value relations. Its law takes
the form of a conditional statement that if the percentage
rate of accumulation of capital exceeds the rate of growth of
the employed population, the rate of profit tends to fall.

Thus it is a conditional statement, and its applicablity is
dependent upon the contingent circumstances of population growth,
historical exhaustion of the latent reserve army, and that
whole multitude of factors that may in some way affect how
and in what proportions capital is accumulated.

Unless I am much mistaken as to the state of economic science
neither, you, I nor any other person, may yet give any quantifiable
predictions with respect to these contingencies on the basis
of our undeveloped theories of technological change. But the
law of the falling tendency of the general rate of profit is
not thereby rendered useless. We know it to be an empirical fact,
its causes being complex, that in the several well established
capitalist nations, population grows slowly if at all. We further
know that in these nations, the greater part of the formerly
independent farmers and artisans have long since lost that
independence to become wage workers. The proletarian population
is, in such countries, either stagnant or shrinking. It follows
as a necessary consequence of this that any prolonged period of
capital accumulation must bring the law into operation. I am
not sufficiently familiar with the economic time-series over this
century in the other leading capitalist countries to comment
on the actual working through of the law in these nations, but
in the British case, it is absolutely clear that during the only
prolonged period of accumulation this century, the decline in
the general rate of profit was very marked.

You may yet be able to convince me that the rapid rate of
accumulation during what Hobsbawm has called the 'golden years',
is to be explained on technological grounds. Until you do,
I shall cling to the hypothesis that politics was in command.