Re. on Unemployment and automation

Paul Cockshott wpc at
Tue Sep 5 20:51:40 MDT 1995


Paul: Are not the processes of the de-accumulation of capital (including
"corporate restructuring") and investment in new technologies (such as
flexible automation) different sides of the same coin?

If one assumes decumulation as a given, then advances in the
productivity of labour in department one, will allow a sum of
constant capital of lower net value to employ the same number
of workers in depts II and III producing the same or higher
levels of material output than before, but with a consequent
effect of lower employment in department I. To that extent,
the evident decline in employment in dept I in recent years
makes sense.

But this begs the question of why capital is not accumulating.
Were surplus value being reinvested, the effect would be that
employment in dept I would have to rise rather than fall.
This would be true irrespective of the fact that labour
productivity was rising. Labour productivity rose during
the golden era after the war, but at the same time capital
accumulated rapidly.

I would suggest that the following factors are likely to
have depressed capital accumulation rates:
1) Relatively high real interest rates.
2) The possibility of obtaining higher rates of return
   in the nics
3) The stagnation in demand consequent on a secular rise
   in the savings ratio engendered both by the high income
   of rentiers and the spread of funded pension schemes to
   sections of the working class

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