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Marx and Ricardo on Machinery: A Critical Note

Listed author(s):
  • Miguel D. Ramirez

    ()

    (Department of Economics, Trinity College)

This paper critically discusses the important and relevant—not to mention controversial— views of Ricardo and Marx on the impact of machinery on labor productivity, the organization of production, and the wages and employment prospects of the working class during the capitalism of their day. First, the paper turns to Ricardo’s assessment of the introduction of machinery and its likely effects on the laborer and the rate of profit and accumulation—one which went through a substantial revision (and reversal) between the first and third editions of his Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. Then we discuss Marx’s own critical analysis of the historical development of machinery and its impact on the labor process, the so-called “compensation principle,” and how the rising organic composition of capital ostensibly generates a “redundant or surplus-population”during the course of capitalism development. We highlight Marx’s intellectual debt to Ricardo (and John Barton) insofar as his theory of technological unemployment is concerned. Lastly, the paper summarizes the views of Ricardo and Marx and offers some concluding remarks.

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File URL: http://internet2.trincoll.edu/repec/WorkingPapers2017/WP17-06.pdf
File Function: First version, 2017
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Paper provided by Trinity College, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 1706.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2017
Date of revision: Nov 2017
Handle: RePEc:tri:wpaper:1706
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Web page: http://www.trincoll.edu/Academics/MajorsAndMinors/Economics/Pages/default.aspx

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  1. Miguel D. Ramirez, 2012. "Is the Falling Rate of Profit the Driving Force Behind Globalization?," Contributions to Political Economy, Oxford University Press, vol. 31(1), pages 91-102.
  2. Heinz Kurz, 2010. "Technical progress, capital accumulation and income distribution in Classical economics: Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Karl Marx," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(5), pages 1183-1222.
  3. Brewer,Anthony, 1984. "A Guide to Marx's 'Capital'," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521276764.
  4. Miguel D. Ramírez, 2014. "Credit, The Turnover of Capital, and the Law of the Falling Rate of Profit: A Critical Note," Contributions to Political Economy, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(1), pages 61-68.
  5. Fred Moseley, 1997. "The Rate of Profit and the Future of Capitalism," Review of Radical Political Economics, Union for Radical Political Economics, vol. 29(4), pages 23-41, December.
  6. Daron Acemoglu & Pascual Restrepo, 2017. "Robots and Jobs: Evidence from US Labor Markets," NBER Working Papers 23285, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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