[OPE-L:5327] Re: is technical change continuous or discontinuous?

From: Steve Keen (s.keen@uws.edu.au)
Date: Wed Apr 04 2001 - 08:56:14 EDT

Technical change is one of those processes which is clearly discrete at the 
individual level, but which is suitably modelled as continuous at the 
aggregate level.

For example, birth and death are clearly discrete events at the individual 
level. But population models which presume a continuous rate of population 
growth are very accurate for large populations. A similar perspective is 
possible for technical change.

As for which Marxist first began to model technical change as a continuous 
process, that's possibly a question better asked of the HES list. However, 
clearly this concept was used by Goodwin in 1957.

At 09:52 PM 4/4/01, you wrote:
>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

Dr. Steve Keen
Senior Lecturer
Economics & Finance
Campbelltown, Building 11 Room 30,
School of Economics and Finance
s.keen@uws.edu.au 61 2 4620-3016 Fax 61 2 4626-6683
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