RE: [OPE] Invention, Inventors, and the Productivity of Labor

From: Paul Cockshott <>
Date: Sun Nov 02 2008 - 16:12:03 EST

You can only produce many inventions relevant to modern technology as part of a collective
work team. You can only produce improvements to the fuel injection systems of jet engines
as part of a team already working on jet engines. The design of a modern gas turbine engine
is a vast undertaking involving hundreds of people.

Paul Cockshott
Dept of Computing Science
University of Glasgow
+44 141 330 1629

-----Original Message-----
From: on behalf of Alejandro Agafonow
Sent: Sun 11/2/2008 9:52 AM
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
Subject: Re: [OPE] Invention, Inventors, and the Productivity of Labor
Why these salaried workers don't produce these inventions by their own?
The lack of capital is not enough, since it is possible to borrow this capital.
I think the answer comes from more subtle phenomena coming from the degree of risk averse of entrepreneurs. A low degree of risk averse is needed to embark on risky projects.
We can't neglect this soft side of the problem if we want a socialist institutional design able to reach the rate of technological change of capitalism.
Regards, A. Agafonow

De: Paul Cockshott <>
Para: Outline on Political Economy mailing list <>
Enviado: domingo, 2 de noviembre, 2008 10:12:20
Asunto: RE: [OPE] Invention, Inventors, and the Productivity of Labor

I am basing my claim on the fact that most engineers are employed
as salaried workers.
I would content that only a small proportion are members of the capitalist class -- people whose
income derives primarily from property not the sale of their labour.

Consider two key innovations, the two prime movers of our age, diesel power and
gas turbines. Whilst the original inventors, Diesel and Whittle were not wage
labourers, the great development of these technologies since then, which
has made them the prime movers of our age has occured under capitalist relations
with the improvements being made by salaried engineers of firms like Rolls Royce,
Pratt and Whitney, MAN, Wartsila etc. The progressive improvement in fuel
efficiency of these two prime movers has been the precondition for the
modern productive transprot network or super tankers, giant containerships,
turbofan jets etc. All this has been done not by the owners of Rolls Royce or
MAN, but by the engineers these companies employ.

-----Original Message-----
From: on behalf of GERALD LEVY
Sent: Sat 11/1/2008 9:17 PM
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
Subject: RE: [OPE] Invention, Inventors, and the Productivity of Labor

> Who invents new and more productive technologies?> In large part it is done by wage labourers.

Hi Paul C:

I don't know about that.

To begin with, we were talking about the productivity of labor.
For an invention to affect productivity, there must be *innovation*
(practical application of an invention). Invention - while generally a
necessary precondition for technological change - is *not a sufficient
condition for increasing the productivity of labor*.

Who the inventors are is not so straight forward. For instance,
one source says that

    "Inventors are only those individuals who had 'inventive' input
      to the process, not those who merely carried out the direction
      and/or ideas of others. Therefore, colleague(s), technician(s),
      or student(s) who have been involved in or carried out the
      research may not necessarily be inventors (Colorado State
      University [CSU]Ventures)

In any event, inventions are created by individual inventors and
within small businesses, private and public universities, public
institutions, and large corporations. In relation to the latter,
no doubt there are wage-workers in R&D departments, but who
are the inventors and what role did the wage-workers play in
the 'inventive' process?

Are you basing your claim that wage-workers "in large part"
are the ones who invent new productive technologies on any
particular empirical study or studies? If so, which one(s)?

In solidarity, Jerry


ope mailing list

Received on Sun Nov 2 16:19:42 2008

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