[OPE-L:5326] is technical change continuous or discontinuous?

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Wed Apr 04 2001 - 07:52:38 EDT

Rakesh wrote in [5307]:

> we have criticisms of the falling rate of profit 
> theory which smuggle in the methodology of 
> comparative statics without justifying its use 
> in the study of continuous technical change (as 
> Ben Fine, Alan F and  Andrew K have
>  pointed out).

And as I have pointed out previously, we also 
have discussions of technical change with the
assertion that it is "continuous", whereas 
all truly dynamic conceptions of technical change
view it as a *discontinuous* process.  If,
for example, we had continuous technical 
change then it would be very hard to claim
that there are waves of investment in constant
fixed capital that are related to the age 
stratification of fixed capital and the on-again and
off-again process of moral depreciation. It would
also be difficult to model "leaps" in technical 
change happening periodically if we view this
process as continuous.

For the above reasons, one might view the
perspective of technical change as continuous
as a quasi-static rather than a dynamic postulate.

A history of thought question might be to ask:
which theorist first modeled technical change
as continuous?  Walras perhaps? Curiously,
I think the Austrian marginalists well understood
the importance of this issue.  Where did this
tradition begin in Marxism?   I would be
surprised to hear that Grossmann, Mattick, Sr.,
or Blake (all of whom Rakesh has a high
regard for) were part of that tradition. Which
leads to the question: who was the first Marxist
who embraced the conception that technical
change under capitalism is continuous?  I wouldn't
be surprised if that same theorist assumed away
constant fixed capital with a circulating capital-only
model. Yet, what kind of  theory that purports to
be dynamic can make this assumption? Of 
course, it is true that technical change can and 
does occur in the production of what become
elements of constant circulating capital -- 
but  that's not a continuous process of 
technical change either.

In solidarity, Jerry

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