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Technological change in Capitalism: some Marxian themes

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  • Tony Smith

Abstract

Most social theorists agree with Adam Smith's assertion that 'consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production', with technology serving as a means to that end. Marx acknowledged the great benefits that capitalism's unprecedented technological dynamism has brought to humanity. For Marx, however, the 'end and purpose' of capitalist production is the accumulation of surplus value. From this perspective technology in capitalism is, first and foremost, a means to capital's end, valorisation, with technological change furthering human ends in a profoundly partial and precarious manner. This paper reconstructs Marx's argument in favour of this general thesis. It concludes with a discussion of three illustrations. When technological development is subsumed under the valorisation imperative, technological change in the workplace will tend to reinforce coercive and exploitative social relations. Full development of the immense potential of network technologies will be systematically hampered, and technological change will tend to generate overaccumulation and financial crises. Copyright The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Cambridge Political Economy Society. All rights reserved., Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Tony Smith, 2010. "Technological change in Capitalism: some Marxian themes," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(1), pages 203-212, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:cambje:v:34:y:2010:i:1:p:203-212
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/cje/bep048
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    Cited by:

    1. Anthony M. Endres & David A. Harper, 2012. "The kinetics of capital formation and economic organisation," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(4), pages 963-980.
    2. Philip Faulkner & Clive Lawson & Jochen Runde, 2010. "Theorising technology," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(1), pages 1-16, January.
    3. Rinaldo Evangelista, 2015. "Technology, development and economic crisis: the Schumpeterian legacy," Working Papers 23, Birkbeck Centre for Innovation Management Research, revised Jun 2015.

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