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

From: Paul Cockshott <>
Date: Sun Nov 02 2008 - 16:16:36 EST

>>The fuel efficiency improvements which you refer to are instances of
'capital-goods-saving technical change' which, while they lower the constant
circulating capital requirements, do not increase the productivity of labor.

I dont see this. The fuel efficiency of diesel engines has gone from around
20% for the first marine diesels to around 50% now. If one compares it with
the fuel efficiency of the steam engines that the first marine deisels replaced
the difference is even greater.

This means a big reduction in the indirect labour required for transport -- much less
labour producing fuel is needed to move a ton from china to the usa than was required
50 years ago, ( abstracting from changes in productivity in the oil industry ).
Thus the aggregate productivity of labour rises, and with it relative surplus value.

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

-----Original Message-----
From: on behalf of GERALD LEVY
Sent: Sun 11/2/2008 1:03 PM
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
Subject: 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.
Hi Paul C:
Engineers, in general, are neither inventors or architects. There is some
rivalry among the professions because of this.
> 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.
That's certainly true, in general, for engineers.
> 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.

In solidarity, Jerry

ope mailing list

Received on Sun Nov 2 16:22:23 2008

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