The Economics of Power, Knowledge, and Time.

Author:Miller, Edythe
Position:Book Review
 
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by Michele Javary. Cheltenham, U.K., Northampton, Mass., USA: Edward Elgar. 2002. ISBN 1840646314, $80.00. 179 pages.

This book, a restatement of Michele Javary's doctoral dissertation, examines the effects upon capitalism and the process of capital formation of interrelationships among power, money, knowledge, and time. It interweaves economic theory, economic history, and recent British experience, focusing upon changes in technological "best practice" in the U.K. electricity supply industry (ESI) in the 1990s.

Javary reviews the literature, dismissing varieties of neoclassical theory as inadequate to explain technological and organizational change. She maintains that while institutionalism contributes important insights, it fails to provide a formal theory of capital. She concludes that the Marxian analysis is the most promising from which to derive an alternative framework. The book presents her reformulation of Marxian thought and its application to recent British experience.

Javary sees economic development as a changing balance of power over time. She contends that under capitalism the "private property rule" guides political and technical development central to capital formation and technology selection. She views the Marxian "commodity relation" and "wage relation" as useful categories but insufficient for full explanation. While appropriately emphasizing labor exploitation, through appropriation of surplus value from unpaid labor time, they miss important aspects of the capital/labor relationship. In her view, labor cannot fully be "commodified" because its operation of production provides it with expertise--a social form of knowledge. Labor thus acquires value as an asset beyond that of its purchase and the sale of its product, a value not captured in the concept of capitalist ownership of the means of production.

Moreover, Javary contends that whereas Karl Marx saw profit as achieved only through surplus value and only during production time, the source of profit is also institutional and technological. Technological change increases the potential for labor exploitation through increases in the ratio of unpaid labor to paid labor power time, as in Marx, but also permits a change in the pattern of money-capital in circulation. Thus, technological change affects not only the relationship of labor power time to production time but also its relationship to the circulation time of financial resources, permitting establishment of a...

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