Captial composition

John R. Ernst ernst at
Tue Nov 7 18:58:35 MST 1995

In Outbox: Your outgoing mail ernst said: 
On   "Matt D." <afn02065 at> said: 
>James Miller wrote: 
>>   John asks: "Does the technical composition 
>>of capital increase faster, slower, or at the 
>>same pace as productivity in Marx's notion of 
>>   The technical composition of capital is a 
>>function of the various technological innovations 
>>that are instituted in the production process. 
>>The long-term impact of all innovations is to 
>>increase the ratio of the physical mass of the 
>>means of production to the living labor which 
>>functions in production. 
>If you'll allow a question from a novice -- and this 
>may be so uninteresting the no one cares to reply, 
>which is fine -- isn't the long term trend of the 
>increasing organic composition of capital a question 
>of value ratios rather than physical mass?  Or 
>at least isn't physical mass a secondary aspect 
>of the question? 
>-- Matt D. 
I suppose we could get into the manner in which the 
technical and value compostions of captital may or  
may not be related, but that would be dodging my point 
in asking the question.  In the good old days we used 
to say that a necessary condition for a fall in the rate 
of profit was for the capital inputs to increase faster 
than the outputs.  Note that if any commodity used 
as an input has the same value as it does as an output, 
then the necessary condition is fulfilled if the inputs 
are increasing faster than the outputs.    
As I said, this was the old way of doing things.  What 
is somewhat clear is that for Marx from the material 
side, inputs do not grow as fast as outputs; whereas 
from the value side the opposite is the case.  This way 
of viewing Marx (a) makes him a bit more interesting, 
(b) makes his work more puzzling, and (c) means that 
there is a point to working with values.   
John R. Ernst 

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