[OPE-L:7280] [OPE-L:808] Re: Technical change and productivity change

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Wed, 31 Mar 1999 15:16:48 -0500 (EST)

Re: John's [OPE-L:807]:

Thanks for putting forward your position so clearly. If others do
the same, we might have a good debate that really flushed out the
differences in perspective of listmembers on this question.

> Why "a"? The manner in which technical change takes place in the
> period of large-scale industry is rarely specifically addressed by
> Marx.

I think that at the level of abstraction where Marx discusses the FRP in
Vol. 3, "modern industry" was assumed to have already developed. Do you

> In our discussions, we've seen 3 passages in which Marx
> claims that technical change is capital-saving. There are a
> couple of possible responses to Marx on this.

All of those responses that you go on to list are possibilities. Another
possibility is that your reading of those passages from Marx was

> Why not "b"? First of all, I find little evidence to support it. That
> is, I think we need to look at the replacement of machines by machines
> on the micro-level to get at this one. Will we find some capital-using
> changes in technique? Of course. Generally, these will occur in industries
> where the c/v ratio is relatively small. In other words, such changes
> take place primarily as one moves from a period of manufacture to one
> of large-scale industry. To maintain that this is still the dominate
> form of technical change seems to impose the transition between the
> 2 periods to the latter period itself.

I agree: we need to look at the micro level. Could you give me a few
examples of markets in today's economy that you would consider to be the
"general case" where there is labor-saving and capital-saving technical

Others can give examples of what they consider a "general case" from
today's economy where there is labor-saving and capital-using technical

If that happens, then we would be in a better position to evaluate which
case is more "general".

> To continue to insist that technical change is capital-using one
> must at least cite a few examples in today's world. Here, I'd
> like to know the prices of both the old and new as well as the
> change in output.

I think it would be helpful -- as suggested above -- if both sides gave
contemporary examples.

> As
> for the accumulation of capital, how are you defining the term here? (you
> might recall that Paul Z and others, including myself, once had an
> extended exchange on this list about that question).
> My comment: I don't recall that extended exchange.

It happened in April, 1996.

> My comment: I don't know if he did or did not and, given the state
> of our understanding of technical change, I see no reason to move
> to that "level of abstraction."

Productive and unproductive labor was discussed at length at a higher
level of abstraction -- the process of capitalist circulation (in Vol.
2) -- before (in terms of logical order, not when the rough drafts were
authored) considering capitalist production as a whole (Vol. 3).

In solidarity, Jerry