Re. on Unemployment and automation

mauro.jr at mauro.jr at
Tue Sep 5 12:18:16 MDT 1995

Paul Cockshott on 01 sept ‘95 wrote
>From the standpoint of the original question, can automation be
>seen as a cause of rising unemployment, I still say no, because
>were it true, employment would have been in decline for two

Paul is very logical. As the process of automation (I’d say the growing
of the organic composition of capital) is lasting since two centuries,
it cannot be >seen as a cause of the present rising unemployment.

This is a sillogism which is far from any attempt of a close examination
of the capitalistic dynamics.
Simply observing the historical trends of the productivity of labour
(which is - has to be said? - the rate of exploitation; see the work
by Alan Freeman “National accounts in Value Terms: The social Wage
and Profit Rate in Britain 1950-1986”), anybody notices that since
the half of the ‘70s it rised dramatically faster than before. Is
not by accident. In the half of the ‘70s began the present type of
“automation”, which is characterised by the introduction of microprocessor
not only in the single machines but in the entire productive line.
We can talk about a real technical revolution which happened in coincidence
with the attempts of the capital to oppose the concrete trend to fall
of the rate of profit.
I don’t want to bother the readers with lists of figures. I think
anybody has red about  and anyway knows that in most of the productions
the same amount produced formerly by say 100 workers is now produced
by 30. This would be already a good reason for the increasing of unemployme
t, if you consider the productive base constant. But we speak of a
particular technical revolution.
Any former technical revolution brought to the shutting of several
much or less industrial activities, but, at the same time, opened
a huge amount of new productions. Take the individual transports’
(auto-cars) revolution (but for the railways revolution would be a
similar process): it’s clear that the old shops building and repairing
horse-carriages, carriage-wheels etc. had little to do; but how many
new massive production, how many new industries! Rubber, chemistry,
petrolchemistry, civil engineering for roads, bridges..., etc.
When informatics invaded the industry and start the conquest of the
civil life, “they” sang the praises of the “magnificient destiny and
progressive” of the capitalism (free market, free industry and so
on); “they” talked about the new opportunities for new jobs....
The reality was exactly the wrong way round.
Four/five firms globally produce the hardware; hardware plus software
can substitute a lot of real jobs (should I make an example I’d talk
about the printing industry, but you can exercise your knowledges
and your imagination for almost any sector of work). Briefly, while
the former technical revolution raised the productive base, the present
one tends to reduce it.
Is it enough for explaining the relationship between the present “automatio
” and the rising of unemployment?
More interesting would be the relationship between the rising of rate
of exploitation and  the trend of the tendency of the profit rate
to fall. It will be the object of a next post.

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