[OPE-L:7234] [OPE-L:759] Re: TSS and the Okishio Theorem

John R. Ernst (ernst@PIPELINE.COM)
Thu, 25 Mar 1999 11:44:52


You asked for citations concerning Marx's view of the
replacement of machines by machines.

In Vol. III, Sec 4, para 2, we read:

"While the circulating part of the constant capital,
such as raw materials, etc., continually increases
its mass in proportion to the productivity of labour,
this is not the case with fixed capital, such as
buildings, machinery, and lighting and heating facilities,
etc. Although in absolute terms a machine becomes dearer
with the growth of its bodily mass, it becomes relatively
cheaper. If five labourers produce ten times as much of
a commodity as before, this does not increase the outlay
for fixed capital ten-fold; although the value of this
part of constant capital increases with the development
of the productiveness, it does not by any means increase
in the same proportion."

My comment:

To interpret this as capital-using one would have to say that
all of Marx's "such as's" would have to grow faster than output.
That is, to increase output more than ten-fold you'd have to
put up more than 10 times as many buildings, more than 10 times
as much machinery and more than 10 times as many lighting and
heating facilities. You can then claim that fixed capital is
not growing at ten-fold if the investment is measured as one
simultaneously values inputs and outputs and still get a
falling rate of profit. At that point, Marx puts Rube Goldberg
to shame.

Concerning this passage, note that in the paragraphs that follow
Engel's additions appears to contradict Marx.

In Paragraph 9 of the Chapter VI, Vol. III, pp 108-09 of the
Int. Edition, we read:

"Further, the quantity and value of the employed machinery
grows with the development of labour productivity but not
in the same proportion as this productivity, i.e., not in
the same proportion in which this machinery increases out-
put. In those branches of industry, therefore, which do
consume raw materials, i.e., in which the subject of labour
is itself a product of previous labour, the growing
productivity of labour is expressed precisely in the
proportion in which a larger quantity of raw material absorbs
a definite quantity of labour, hence in the increasing
amount of raw materials converted in, say, one hour into
products, or processed into commodities. The value of raw
material, therefore, forms an ever-growing component of
the value of the commodity-product in proportion to the
development of the productivity of labour, not only
because it passes wholly into this latter value, but also
because in every aliquot part of the aggregate product the
portion representing depreciation of machinery and the portion
formed by the newly added labour--both continually decrease."

My comment:
The only way those using simultaneous valuation can come to terms
with this passage in light of their reading of Marx's falling
rate of profit is to say "Marx makes mistakes." The difficulty
with this dismissal is that there are no other places in Marx's
work that furnish us with such an unambiguous dismissal
of simultaneous valuation given the notion of the FRP that that
valuation must use -- capital-using technical change.

Put simply, by using simultaneous valuation one must insist
that the growth in machinery, buildings, etc. outstrips the
growth in output for the rate of profit to fall. Or, one must
embrace Ricardo and speak of the rising costs of raw materials
as accumulation takes place. In other words, at least some part
of investment must grow faster than output.


Why and how is Marx seen as a precursor to Rube Goldberg?

1. As one moves from the period of manufacture with little
or no fixed capital, fixed capital can grow faster than output.
The newer techniques are both capital-using and labor-saving.

2. In the period of modern(large scale) industry, we face
the problem of replacing machines with machines. One finds
no direct evidence in Marx that this type of technical
change is capital-using. Instead, one is forced to "deduce"
it as one imputes simultaneous valuation to Marx. To increase
output ten-fold, the machines must be increased by more than