[OPE-L:3479] technical change and the conservation of value?

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Sat, 19 Oct 1996 06:35:50 -0700 (PDT)

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Andrew K wrote in [OPE-L:3478]:

> I agree
> that Marx held that *exchange* conserves value. I don't think he maintained
> that *changes in productivity* conserve value. <snip>
> It may seem to you as if my interpretation implies value is created in
> exchange because you identify only the following value processes: (a)
> creation, (b) transfer (from constant capital to product), (c)
> consumption/physical destruction, and (d) exchange. If a given change in
> value doesn't fit under (a), (b) or (c), you classify it under (d), and say
> value is being created or destroyed in exchange. I think there is a fifth
> process: (e) devaluation/revaluation. I think there can be, in Marx's
> theory, a devaluation/revaluation of the *total* social capital, so that
> productivity changes lead to the non-conservation of aggregate
> value. <snip> As I understand Marx, the only processes that necessarily
> conserve value are the transfer of constant capital-value, and
> exchange. I am aware of no textual evidence that technical change
> conserves value.

As a non-TSS observer, I want to take this opportunity to put in my $0.02:

Without taking a stand on the different formulas advanced by Alan and
Andrew, I very much agree with Andrew that the postulate that value is not
created in exchange does not imply that the process of technical change in
constant fixed capital necessarily conserves value. Alan seems to believe
that moral depreciation simply revalues the existing value of constant
fixed capital in a way that the aggregate value of that capital does not
change. The conceptual problem that I have with this interpretation is
that it excludes the possibility that qualitative changes in constant fixed
capital can result in the forcible destruction of aggregate capital values
already produced. I certainly see no reason, moreover, to believe that
the value of the remaining stock of constant capital will be
quantitatively revalued *precisely* such that there is no loss in
aggregate value following technical change. Further (although this may be
a side issue), I see no empirical evidence that this process occurs in
the way Alan believes it to be.

In Solidarity,


PS: This exchange has so far happened under the "[TSS and] Value of Money"
thread. As the issues raised seem not to fit well into that subject line,
I have changed the subject line accordingly.