[OPE-L:7319] [OPE-L:848] Re: Re: technical change and productivity change

Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Wed, 7 Apr 1999 23:46:49 -0400 (EDT)

I think Ajit is correct that the uniformity of the profit rate in a
totally automated economy is reasonable which is not to say the
assumption of zero v is also reasonable; the uniform profit rate is
simply the equal share of the net output demanded by the owners of the
different and inter-related fully automated industries on the basis of
their ownership rights. Pack himself makes this point; it's the Roemerian
emphasis on the ownership of assets as the key feature of distributional
injustice, as opposed to the extraction of surplus labor in the production
process. It could be taken as the superiority of this kind of critique
that it would retain all its force in a totally automated economy where
the moral force of the labor theory of value would be lost.

I think the set of *Grundrisse* inspired objections to the possibility of
total automation suggested by Simon Mohun in his entry on automation in
the Bottomore dictionary is much more reasonable. However, there are
passages from the first and third volume I would have quoted to suggest
Marx's argument about why capitalist relations of production become ill
suited to the development and the application of the highest forms of
machinery. The Grundrisse passages are to my mind much less analytically
clear. This could be due to the insufficient development of the
labor/labor power distinction there that is the pivot of the argument as
it is developed in Capital I: "The use of machinery for the exclusive
purpose of cheapening the product is limited by the requirement that less
labour must be expended in producing the machinery than is displaced by
the employment of that machinery. For the capitalist, however, there is a
further limit on its use. Instead of paying for the labour, he pays only
the value of the labour power employed; the limit to his using a machine
is therefore by the difference between the value of the machine and the
value of the labor power replaced by it." p.515

Again the labor/labor power distinction that Ajit would have us expunge
turns out as the above passage unfolds to be crucial in understanding the
limits on the capitalist choice of technique, which evidently falls within
one of his three problematics of economics.