Re: Do machines add value?


I am not denying that capitalists have power over workers, but feudal lords had power over peasants. What is new about capitalism is the systematic mobilization of technology to lower costs of production to compete for greater profit. These are two distinct aspects of capitalism that I think Michael and Alan are not keeping separate. Alan repeats that the producer of machines only receives cost plus a markup and that profit can't come from capitalists ripping each other off. This formulation refuses to recognize that a machine is not just a blob of old labor and materials. It is a new configuration that contains the potential to increase the productivity of new labor. The capitalist who makes the new machine has an eye on the needs of the commodity producing capitalist and makes a pitch that this new machine can increase his profit. The price of the new machine includes a profit for the machine maker that comes out of a calculation by the commodity producing capitalist that his profit will increase to such an extent that he can afford to give the machine-making capitalist a profit and still make a profit of his own with the new technology. They split the profit of the new technology. They don't rip each other off. If you want to use the language of asymmetry, there is an asymmetry in power between capitalists and workers but also another asymmetry between old and new technology. Neither of these two comments discuss the aspect of the technological dynamism of capitalism, but that was my point in bringing up Kitching's analysis. His focus is on the role of machines in the search for profit. Capitalism is not just about theft and exploitation. It is also about an extraordinary growth in productivity. Alan's comment about competition eliminating any unfair advantage of one capitalist over another assumes that technological change will come to an end. That is not what capitalism is about.

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