[OPE-L:3377] Re: TSS and Tech Change

andrew kliman (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Sat, 12 Oct 1996 17:24:03 -0700 (PDT)

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A comment on Duncan's ope-l 3359 and John's ope-l 3376, responding to it.

I'm getting confused. It seems that John agrees with Duncan concerning the
interpretation of certain passages in _Capital_ about which I thought there
was disagreement. Could one of you please explain this?

In any case, I for one am still not in agreement. John had written: "the
term 'Marx bias[ed]' technical change means that the constant capital to
output ratio increases as the living labor to output ratio decreases. Where
does this idea come from?

"A. Marx's own description of the transition from handicraft to machinery is
the only textual support."

Duncan replied: "I don't think so. In fact, you produced a relevant quote in
your last
posting on this. 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."

I haven't been able to find this quote (on my hard drive, not in Marx).

In any case, I agree with Duncan that Marx's view of the tendencies of
capitalist accumulation are a rise in the rate of exploitation, a rise in the
technical (and organic) composition of capital, and a fall in the rate of
profit --- except that the last one is periodically overcome by means of
crisis, and is not a secular trend. But none of this implies that the
constant capital to output ratio increases, if what is meant by "constant
capital" is means of production (in physical terms rather than in value
terms). I think this is the way "Marx-biased" is used.

As I've noted, the notion that a rise in the organic composition is tantamount
to a rise in the ratio of means of production to output is a byproduct of
simultaneism. Call output X, living labor L, and means of production M.
Ignoring circulating means of production, the simultaneous unit value of means
of production is L/X and this unit value times the means of production is
"constant capital" in value terms according to simultaneism: C = (L/X)M. The
organic composition of capital, by one measure, is C/L, which is then (L/X)M/L
= M/X. Hence, in simultaneism, a rise in M/X and a rise in C/L are basically
the same. But this is not true in the temporalist interpretation. In the
latter, a rise is C/L is perfectly compatible with a fall in M/X --- which is
what I had thought John was arguing, until recently --- because if values are
falling over time, the temporalist C will be larger than the simultaneist C.

But John now seems to be agreeing with Duncan's reading of these passages.
Are you, John? If so, why?

Also, while John in ope-l 3376 is only talking about particular cases, he
gives the impression of arguing that the overall tendency within the period of
machinofacture is not to replace living labor with means of production. I
think that is precisely the tendency.

But maybe I'm missing the intricacies here.

Andrew Kliman