[OPE-L:1569] Re: Temporality vs simultaneity

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Tue, 26 Mar 1996 20:44:53 -0800

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A reply to Bruce's ope-l:1556. Bruce's calculations are correct. To
my knowledge, all temporalists will accept these numbers. As for
interpretation and conclusions:

(I leave aside the notions that workers are paid for their labor and that
labor, not workers, purchase the corn.)

(1) I would not conclude that capital would adopt the technical change.
The rate of profit rises in this period, but unless capitalists base their
decisions on the current period only, there's little reason to believe
the rate of profit will remain above it's previous level. A *few* of the
uncertainties that need to be taken into consideration: rising price
means that either wages will have to rise or the price of labor-power
will far significantly below value. Can the workers continue to work at
the lower real wage? Conversely, what would a higher wage do to the
rate of profit? Increased reliance on workers is threatening to capital.
Would they have additional bargaining power, ability to disrupt production,
would the flow of output be less certain due to reduced ability to control
it "scientifically"? Plus, if employment keeps rising, as Bruce notes,
depletion of the industrial reserve army threatens to raise wages.

(2) I therefore think the example is too simplistic to try to draw
empirical consequences from it concerning *capitalists' behavior.* Other
conclusions can be drawn, however, concerning the determination of value.
For instance, as Bruce notes, lower productivity tends to raise the profit
rate. This is a corollary to Marx's repeated statements (in Section 3
of Vol. III, and TSV) that the rate of profit falls, not because labor
becomes less productive, but because it becomes more productive. This is
a key to the Marx's difference from Okishio et al. Basically, they
eliminate value, i.e., reduce value to use-value (including relative
prices), and argue that rising productivity must lead to rising profit-
ability if real wages remain constant.

Why then don't capitalists try to exploit more labor rather than less?
This is the key contradiction of capitalism, and the real issue I think
Bruce's post draws attention to. One answer, on the phenomenological
level, that Marx gives, is that a capitalist who mechanizes and raises
his/her firm's productivity gets superprofit even though the general profit
rate declines. (Okishio seemed to disprove this logic, but only because
he seemed to be able to show that the new techniques the individual
capitalist adopted would raise the general rate. But the Okishio theorem
has thrice been refuted by temporalists.) Another answer concerns the
essence of capital--to produce surplus-value. Rising productivity cheapens
means of subsistence and produces relative surplus-value. Bruce's TSS
example doesn't contradict this. All it shows is that the CURRENT
period's wages don't change once they've been paid. Third, as Marx
notes, machines are an antagonist to the workers. Machines take away
workers' control of production and make the mode of production more
"scientific," "objective," and less dependent on the whims and feebleness
of human beings, thereby reducing uncertainty.

I'd like to know what Bruce and other simultaneists make out of Marx's
contentions against Ricardo that the rate of profit falls because labor
becomes *more* productive.

Andrew Kliman