Re: [ox-en] Re: Value of software
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Sun, 06 Oct 2002 10:23:47 +0200
Hi Graham, Stefan, all!
Sorry, but I did not found time and energy enough to follow this list
during the last weeks. The conference and the German list took me far
3 months (90 days) ago Graham Seaman wrote:
On Sun, 7 Jul 2002, Stefan Merten wrote:
Of course every commodity has some development costs, i.e. the
immaterial labor needed to develop it. The labor needed for that is
fixed / constant for a given product because it is all done when the
development process has come to an end. (Is this similar to the fixed
capital of Marx? I don't know.)
I am saying that it is NOT similar. However, it might be possible to make
an argument that it is: AFAIK, Marx never considered this point
explicitly, and the parts of his writings which deal with related topics
(especially Theories of Surplus Value) are ones where he seems to me to
be going in circles without finding answers he was really satisfied with.
So I don't think it's possible to do 'argument by quotation' in the old
Soviet style on this subject.
The reason I think it is not similar, is that fixed capital has value, and
part of this value is transmitted to the product (financially, as
depreciation; physically, as wear-and-tear). Produce more of the same
product, and the fixed capital wears out more quickly. Design (whether
of software or anything else) does not wear out physically. Whether you
produce 500 or 5 million copies of a design is irrelevant. So, if the
design had value (like fixed capital) this value would never be
transmitted to the product itself, and value without realization on a
market does not exist.
[Just citing to get the context back.]
2 months (73 days) ago Graham Seaman wrote:
Looks like this one will run and run ;-)
Yes. But it's about a difficult question - so it probably need to be
Well, I disagree. But I am not sure if there's any way we can settle the
argument - it may be as much a question of definitions as anything. I
would claim that my definition is closer to the classical one, where
the basic factor on which everything else depends is the material
transmission of value as machines wear out. But against that you could
argue that Marx already allows for 'moral depreciation' (not sure if
the same words are used in German - meaning depreciation as a result
of machinery becoming out-of-date) so that he accepted cases where value
is transmitted with no material change in the machinery. Personally,
that makes sense to me when talking about an exceptional case, but if
it becomes the typical case it seems to me that the whole theory is
becoming so abstract (and value is tending to become something mystical)
that the theory no longer applies very well.
Reading that another thought came to my mind. Is it thinkable that the
value of the design is not transmitted to the products in the sense
like machines "transmit" their value to products?
Anyway machines do not "transmit" anything to the products. They
wear-and-tear over time and need to be replaced some day. In a sense
they are seen as raw material being input into the production process.
This might be a good approximation to the reality of material machines
- but it doesn't work with "information machines". "Information
machines" do not wear-and-tear and thus they don't loose their value.
So you can not paint a picture they are "transmitting" anything -
because they do not loose anything. I think that this is a direct
consequence from the fact that the distribution of information does
not use up the information. This central feature of information can
not be reflected in the material world I guess.
Thinking this way this would have an important consequence. We would
have a third source of wealth besides nature and work: Information.
May be that picture working for material machines simply can't be kept
for information goods? Is it possible to think that in principle
information goods transfer unlimited value to the products? Perhaps
Marx supposed something like that already - moral depreciation at
least sounds like that. In his time the role of information goods was
much less than in our times so it would be just normal that he did not
Frankly I find that an interesting thought. It would give a hint why
capitalism gets into principal problems when information goods become
a dominant factor. May be this is the point where Marx' theory of
capitalism comes to an end. Together with capitalism.
Mit Freien Grüßen