[OPE-L:3376] Re: TSS and Tech Change

John Ernst (ernst@nyc.pipeline.com)
Sat, 12 Oct 1996 15:34:41 -0700 (PDT)

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In OPE-L 3359, Duncan said among other things:

... If you look at Marx's chapter in Volume I on the long-run
tendency of capital accumulation, or at the passages on relative surplus
value, which are the other side of the same coin, you see that he had a
vision of capital accumulation in which at the beginning capital takes over

production processes inherited from previous modes of production that have
very low constant capital to living labor ratios, with a high rate of
profit and a low rate of exploitation, and that capitalist production
gradually transforms these processes to a high rate of exploitation, a high

constant capital to living labor ratio, and a low rate of profit.

John says:

I'm in agreement with you when we consider the initial mechanization
of a particular labor process. In this case it is a question of
replacing dead labor with living labor, raising the constant capital
to labor ratio, and lowering the rate of profit. Would you agree that
in this case the constant capital to output ratio also increases?

Let's look at the cases where it is not a question of substituting
dead labor for living labor.

Case 1.
If we see that there is a choice between dead labor and living
labor as there is in the Marx bias type of technical change,
then there is no reason that living labor cannot replace dead
labor. Indeed, if the real wage falls low enough, it is clear
that capitalists who once mechanized using Marx bias technical
change may switch back to the old technique with falling wages.
Given Marx bias technical change it would seem we'd be back at
the Smith's pin factory if wages fell enough. That we do not
see more of this switching back casts SOME doubt on the notion
that Marx bias technical change predominates in the capitalism
of today. That is, older techniques with lower real wages should
be able to yield higher profits than the newer Marx bias techniques.

Case 2.
When living labor is added to a production process as it is in the
period of manufacture, the output increases faster than the living
labor added. The constant capital to output ratio falls and, the
rate of profit can only fall due to rising wages.

Case 3
Given that the constant capital to output ratio increases as dead
labor replaces living labor, there is less and less living labor
relative to dead labor available for replacement by more dead labor.
Again, agreeing with Marx, I argue that as dead labor replaces dead
labor, the amount invested in constant capital, measured at prices
of period 0, grows more slowly the output of period 1. In the
few passages where Marx describes this type of replacement this
is his 'theory.' It seems to be in agreement with his basic
theory outlined in the chapter on "Co-Operation."

Note that I do not think that the only way to observe what we are
"Marx biased" technical change on the macro level is to hold fast
to the notion that labor augmenting and capital using technical
change must take place on the micro-level. Thus, I think my Case 2
may be compatible with the results of Dumenil and Levy as well as
those of Moseley and of Cockshott.