[OPE-L:8370] Re: Electronics and Value

From: OPE-L Administrator (ope-admin@ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu)
Date: Wed Jan 22 2003 - 08:31:40 EST

I originally tried sent this post on Mon, 12:44 pm but we have been
experiencing some technical difficulties with listproc./JL

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jim Davis" <jdav@gocatgo.com>
Sent: Monday, January 20, 2003 11:15 AM
Subject: Re: Electronics and Value (for OPE-L list)

[Please consider posting this to the OPE-L list, in response to 8340.
Thanks, jd]

In response to clyder@gn.apc.org [8340]:

This seems to be one of those unsettlable yes-it-is no-it-isn't debates.

 To say:

> The crucial factor was not the steam engine, since water power was
> what drove the early textile factories, it was the invention of
> automatic, or in English self-acting, machinery of which the Mule was
> the most important example. The key factor here is that the sequencing
> of actions moves from the nervous system of the worker to the machine
> itself.

Marx was pretty clear in his discussion of technology revolution in
Chapter XV of Cap v. I that "motive power" was the critical element in
the transformation from manufacture to industry; that is the steam
engine that could take all of the pieces of the manufacturing process
and put them together into a new system of production ("not till the
invention of Watt's second and so-called double-acting steam-engine, was
a prime mover found" etc etc.). Yes each of the pieces precede the
culmination of the processes, just as Babbage's models and Hollerith's
punch cards and Boole's algebra helped lay the basis for
electronic-based production systems. Everything comes from something.

The leap from purely mechanical systems like the mule to electronically
controlled systems of machinery making machinery is a profound one, but
ultimately I suppose a philosophical question of what is the "quality"
of one system vs another, and what would constitute a profound enough
change, a leap, such that one would re-visit the question the end of
Value, the end of capitalism, and communism. Obviously I think the
introduction of the new technologies that flow from electronics does
constitute such a leap.

I suppose in either case there are interesting questions that can be
discussed when the component of living labor approaches zero (doesn't
hit zero, and maybe in the process as a whole hasn't even come close,
but nevertheless has set into motion a deeply unsettling process). What
happens to capitalist reproduction, to capitalist society, in that case?
With electronics-based production, this is not such a far-fetched


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