Forms of Tech. Change in CAPITAL

John R. Ernst ernst at
Fri Dec 1 16:53:29 MST 1995

Are there two basic types of technical change 
in Marx's CAPITAL?  It would seem so. 
In his discussion of the FRP, Marx states 
that to increase productivity ten fold, one 
need not invest ten times as much in plant 
and equipment.  However, one must invest 
about ten times as much in raw materials. 
This kind of technical change could well 
be called "capital saving" even though 
there is increased investment in fixed  
capital. (See Chapter 15, Bk. 3, Sec. 4, 
paragraphs one and two.) 
Far more familiar to readers of CAPITAL is 
the idea that technical change is "labor  
saving."  That is, there may be a three-fold 
increase in the outlay for plant and equipment 
and only a two-fold increase in productivity 
provided that the savings in variable capital 
provoke the capitalist into seeing this invest- 
ment as an increase in his initial rate of  
profit.  (See Chapter 15, Bk. 3, Sec 4,  
paragraphs 3-5, written by Engels.)  Engels 
correctly refers readers to Book I as he 
goes into this type of technical change. 
By failing to distinguish between these two 
distinct forms of technical change, much  
confusion arises in FRP discussions.  The 
"labor saving" form of technical change is 
given emphasis to assure a fall in the FRP, 
while the other form is deemed non-existent 
or, simply, ignored.    
John Ernst 

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