You are on page 1of 14

16/03/2017

LECTURE 3:
TECHNOLOGY: THE
ECONOMIC MACHINE

DR. NATHAN COOMBS


nathan.coombs@ed.ac.uk

DR. NATHAN COOMBS


nathan.coombs@ed.ac.uk

1
16/03/2017

ADAM SMITHS PIN FACTORY

Why is
modern
industry so
productive?

2
16/03/2017

This division of labour, from which so


many advantages are derived, is not
originally the effect of any human wisdom,
which foresees and intends that general
opulence to which it gives occasion. It is
the necessary, though very slow and
gradual consequence of a certain
propensity in human nature which has in
view no such extensive utility; the
propensity to truck, barter, and exchange
one thing for another. (Smith, 1776): 117) Adam Smith
(1723 -1790)

Lecture plan

1.Karl Marx as revolutionary


2.The theory of historical materialism
3.Marx after Marxism still relevant?

3
16/03/2017

1. Karl Marx as revolutionary

Philosopher, political
organiser, social scientist,
economist
Aims to understand and
criticise oppression in
industrial capitalism
Elaborates a materialist
Karl Marx Friedrich
theory of historical
(1818 Engels (1820
development and develops
1883) - 1895)
an economic critique of
capitalist profit

4
16/03/2017

New Lanark in Scotland an


experiment in utopian socialism

The history of all hitherto


existing society is the history
of class struggle.

The modern bourgeois


society that has sprouted
from the ruins of feudal
society has not done away
with class antagonisms but
established new classes, new
conditions of oppression,
new forms of struggle in
place of the old ones.
(1848)

5
16/03/2017

The 1848 revolutions in


Europe a failed uprising

DR. NATHAN COOMBS


nathan.coombs@ed.ac.uk

6
16/03/2017

Key points:

Class oppression is common to all historical periods


but takes a disguised economic form under capitalism
Progressive, modernist view of the role of capitalism
and bourgeoisie (industrial capitalists)
Universal political vision of proletariat (working
class) solidarity which will bring about communism

2. The theory of historical


materialism

7
16/03/2017

The birth of scientific socialism

Marx turns to political economy in greater


detail
Develops systematic account of
exploitation and capitalist profit
Elaborates his economic and historical
theory of the origins and eventual decline
of capitalism historical materialism
Many ambiguities that have been argued
about by scholars ever since!
(1867)

The handmill gives you society with the feudal lord; the
steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist. (Marx, 1847)

The machines and


tools of a given era
effect different social
relations and class
structures
Technological
determinism?

8
16/03/2017

Forces of production Relations of production

Property rights,
Machines, tools,
knowledge, skills management techniques,
production for exchange

SUPERSTRUCTURE
Legal system
Political
institutions
Ideology

+ = Mode of
production

ECONOMIC BASE

9
16/03/2017

An inevitable historical sequence?

Feudalism Capitalism Communism

At a certain stage of development,


the material productive forces of
society come into conflict with the
existing relations of production ...
From forms of development of the
productive forces these relations turn
into fetters. Then begins an era of
social revolution. (Marx 1859)

10
16/03/2017

The 1917 Russian


Revolution an inevitable
revolution in the wrong
place at the wrong time?

Key point: Historical materialism is a theory of how socio-


economic relations cause political change and revolution.

Differentiates between forces of production and relations of


production
Economic base determines the superstructure of ideologies
and legal and political institutions
Can be interpreted as a technologically determinist

BUT some scholars argue that this mechanical model does not
reflect accurately Marxs ideas but was developed by later Marxists

11
16/03/2017

3. Marx after Marxism still


relevant?

China today capitalist or


communist?

12
16/03/2017

Can Marxs theory account


for the rise of finance?

Economic automation
a threat to
employment and the
existing political
order?

13
16/03/2017

Are new information


communication technologies
changing the economic base of
capitalism?

Conclusion
Marx directs our attention to the technologies employed
in production and their economic and political implications
The theory of historical materialism proposes that the
relations of production can limit the forces of production
and encourage a social revolution
Although some question the relevance of Marxs theories
today, his ideas continue to stimulate debate about the
implications of new production technologies and the
future of capitalism

14