Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Last Word on Wasting Necessary Time

Apropos of nothing so much as to how little Michael Heinrich understands of small "c" capital, there's this from David F. Noble's Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation, Oxford University Press, 1984:
Second N/C {numerical control, the original designation for digitally coded and controlled automatic machine tools} machine tools represented a substantially greater fixed capital investment than conventional machinery. N/C machines were more expensive to buy, more expensive to maintain, and--in many cases--more expensive to operate productively. Thus, cost effective use of the equipment was essential to offset the fixed capital cost, merely to break even. Moreover, because this new technology was evolving so rapidly, existing equipment quickly became obsolete. Thus it was important that it pay for itself as early as possible. Cost-effective use was vital to insure the quickest return on the investment in N/C.
Essentially, N/C equipment was cost effective if its use resulted in a reduction of the unit cost of each part produced, such that the savings gained thereby outweighed the investment in the equipment (in the case of GE, this mean the unit cost not only of each part but of the final assembled engine). [p.266-267]
Now to anyone who has worked in an industry that makes capital investments, big capital investments, this is not news.  This is ABCs.  That Heinrich can pretend at being an expert, an analyst of Marx's work, without grasping how capitalism actually operates is but another index to the undeveloped condition of the revolutionary struggle.

Why would we ever take these types seriously?

S. Artesian
April 23, 2013


  1. Anonymous11:20 PM

    Heinrich is, first and foremost, an academic Marxologist, e.g. he's concerned with establishing an authoritative chronology of Marx's development of the TRPF based on a "new" (it always has to be "new") treatment of textual fragments that hardly anyone has looked at in the first place. David Noble was writing an in depth, thoroughly-researched critical treatment of industrial production in material/historical (historical materialist?) terms with F of P. Apples and oranges, but yes, Noble's work "lives and breathes" after nearly three decades.

  2. But of course, the whole point of exchange value is to make apples and oranges comparable, "ratio-nal."

    Semantic cleverness aside on my part, I think that the point of Marx's big c Capital is in bridging the transition from the abstract to the concrete-- from a theory of TRPF to its manifestations in the real motion of capital...and capitalists.

  3. Anonymous12:58 PM

    I think you are correct.

    I also think Noble's work was very good at demonstrating, in the concrete, that very real motion of capital - to expunge the proportion of labor in the processes of production and social reproduction, to give variable capital (workers) the appearance of fixed capital assets (human capital/ability-machines), to constantly monetize non-monetary relations - always effectively capturing and recapturing the means of production, always checking the TRPF, always achieving commoditization while singing songs about “efficiency” and “productivity.” However, I had always assumed that for Noble, (and a few others, such as Robert Kurz), it is the imperative of perpetual growth on a global scale that presents the final insurmountable limit to this movement. Turning use values into exchange values viz. the form of value (valorization-devalorization-revalorization) ultimately assumes unlimited energy resources and raw material extraction.

    I could be wrong - it's been a while since I've read him.