[OPE-L:1436] Re: Better Machines

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Mon, 11 Mar 1996 13:10:11 -0800

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In preparing for the EEA, I've gotten behind, including on the better/
cheaper machine question. But I do want to respond to John E's post
(ope-l 1327) of last week. He says that, according to my (Andrew's)
interpretation of moral depreciation in Marx, we never seem to get
to better machines, only cheaper ones.

Not really. I agree the capitalist's capital is devalued if better
machines come in, because the better machines are more productive and thus
make the old ones produce commodities now having individual values higher
than social values. Certainly, as John says, moral depreciation includes
the loss of value due to BOTH cheaper and better machines. I'm unsure
why he thinks I ignore better machines, especially since in a private
message to him last month I did note that moral depreciation in Marx
is caused by both better and cheaper machines.

The reason I focus on the cheaper machines is that, with respect to
the issue of VALUE DETERMINATION, the effect of better machines is
straightforward. A lot of controversy and misunderstanding has taken
place, however, with the loss of value due to cheaping of the elements
of constant capital. So I'm just focusing on the analytically less
understood aspect, not "ignoring" better machines. Of course, I'm
not trying to build a theory of moral depreciation. Were I to
be doing that, I'd alsays have to treat the two aspects together. But
I'm not doing that.

I don't really understand all of John's thinking--I hope to learn more at
the EEA, but it seems that we may disagree about how long a machine "can"
be used. I think a machine "can" be used as long as it functions
physically. How long it can PROFITABLY be used is another question, as
is how long it WILL be used. If no distinction is made between how
long a machine can be used and how long it will be used, then the
very concept of moral depreciation, and the very concept of premature
obsolesence, becomes unthinkable.

Andrew Kliman