IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Technological change in Capitalism: some Marxian themes


  • Tony Smith


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

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    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.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:cambje:v:34:y:2010:i:1:p:203-212. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Oxford University Press) or (Christopher F. Baum). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.