From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Wed Nov 29 2006 - 08:58:37 EST
Ajit wrote _______________________________ Ian, I think you have missed the point. So let me try to get at it another way. Now, the idea of labor displacing technical change plays an important role in Marx's theory (Ricardo had already acknowledged in the 3rd edition of the Principles that at least logically, if not empirically, machine can displace labor in aggregate terms). Now, follow Marx's logic to the extreme. Allow technical change to continuously displace labor to the extent that the live labor's role in the production process becomes negligible. At this limiting case, if you apply Marx's exercise then either you have to argue that the value of all the commodities must tend to zero and the rate of surplus value must tend to infinity; or that the rate of profits must tend to zero. Now, Marx's or many Marxists position could be that of course the rate of profits must tend to zero because the case represents the c/v tending to infinity. But the problem with this answer is that Profit = S/(C+V) is the wrong formula for the rate of profits. What I'm asking is: can you logically claim that when V tends to zero, then the physical surplus of the system must also tend to zero? If not, then it can be easily shown that this limiting system will have well defined prices of commodities along with positive and equal rate of profits. ---------------------- Ajit, the rise in C relative to V is predicated on them Both being measured in terms of labour value. Suppose we take a pure circulating capital model, what does this rise in C relative to V entail? Can we measure it using any non-labour based unit of value? In a purely circulating capital system of i.o equations the implication of C rising relative to V, is that the net product available for distribution is declining ( leaving aside variations in the wage share ). This would entail a decline in the ratio of net product to gross product, and so would involve a decline in the rate of profit whatever input was used as the standard of value. So you can measure an analogue of the organic composition of capital without relying on the labour theory of value, and the conclusions are the same as if you use labour values with respect to the fall in the rate of profit. But this rise in C relative to V is not conceptually the same thing as your original question about what would happen if robots replaced humans. For this to happen you would need robots in the original sense of Capeks play. They would have to be 'universal robots' thus 'universal workers', which is exactly what humans are today. Capek envisaged robots in human form who could substitute for any human job. Whilst this is far beyond current engineering practice, it is not in-principle impossible that it could be done some time in the future. The issue then would be whether the production process of producing these robots was cheaper than human reproduction and education. Were that to be the case then capitalists would fire humans and hire robots as depicted in the play. But the standard of value would now become robot labour time not human labour time, and the human proletariat would be reduced to a plebian mass surviving on a dole produced by the surplus labour of the robots. But as every novelist who toys with the idea points out, the robots themselves will, if they are perfect human substitutes, tend to rebel.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu Nov 30 2006 - 00:00:06 EST