science and technology

donna jones djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Fri Aug 19 14:08:43 MDT 1994


"Marx seems to have underestimated the resiliency of capitalism and its
ability to adapt to the changing conditions of the accumulation process,
because of the difficulty in forseeing the degree of the development of the
productivity--and exploitability--of labor possible at any moment though
the application of machinery and the advancement of the applied sciences.
he did emphasize that a rapid development of the sciences accompanied and
conditioned, even as it was conditioned by, the rise and expansion of
capital.  While technological changes in the production process are at
first quite accidental and sporadic, they are soon systematically searched
for in the competitive pursuit of new prouducts and cheaper methods of
production.  Such changes improve productivity, which implies the reduction
of living labor relative to means of production and the mass of output. But
this rise in the organic composition of capital can be offset by the
increasing mass of commodities in such a way as to maintain or even
increase the rate of profit on capital, if only for some time.  Thus it is
not possible to predict exactly what impact science and technology will
have on the value-determined capitalist production process."--Paul Mattick,
Sr., 1983,p.101

While Mattick, Sr goes on to argue that through its destruction of
capitalist relations of production, proletarian revolution would be the
greatest productive force of all, Schumpeterian Marxists such as Richard
Walker have argued against any theoretical limits to capital accumulation
in that the extra value that accrues to an innovating capitalist involves
not merely a transfer of value to that capital but (under certain
conditions) a higher rate of surplus value for *the system as a whole*:

"By gaining competitive advantage over its rivals, a firm can capture an
extra measure of surplus value, or *surplus profit*....Such competition has
a beneficial effect on accumulation as a whole, as other firms in the
industry rush to follow the leader.  If the product is a capital good, a
lower price or better functioning will raise the rate of profit in sectors
using it as constant capital.  If it is a wage good, and its value falls,
the reproduction cost of labor will decrease, and the overall rate of
surplus value will increase.  If the product opens up new markets and
employs an additional increment of labor, more value is added to the
system." (Capital and Class,Summer 1988,157)

If all this is true, the abolition of capitalism should have no place on
any progressive agenda. Instead inefficient producers of capital goods
should be pushed out of the market; the class struggle would be nothing
more than a Ricardian attempt to gain a greater share of productivity
increases (made possible by both cheaper constant capital and wage goods);
and the new savings available to the emergent capitals should be allowed to
find entirely new fields of investment, which will allow the multiplication
of the use-values available to the working class (personal computers,
vcr's, new medicines, etc). In short,if capital accumulation brings forth a
higher rate of surplus value which then allows both real wage increases and
ever-greater savings for investment on new product horizons, why the hell
would the proletariat want to overthrow capitalism?

(I have my answers; does anyone want to help tackle this problem?)
d jones



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