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

From: Alejandro Agafonow <>
Date: Mon Nov 03 2008 - 04:09:18 EST

Paul C.: "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." Team work doesn’t go against rivalry and catallactic competition.   It is true that many inventions have been produced within the monopoly of military complexes, like in USA for example. But even in this case intervene contractors that has to compete to gain projects or, when the cronyism of Republicans biases the adjudication of projects, huge profits that go to the contractors’ pockets.   I remember the movie The Aviator. Many of the advancements in modern aviation were achieved in military complexes, but private contractors intervened competing among them. For example, Transcontinental & Western Air (TWA) owned by Howard Hughes had to compete with Pan American Airlines (Panam) owned by Juan Trippe, developing airplanes able to travel transatlantic distances at huge heights to avoid turbulences, making the trip comfortable for commercial passengers.   I’m not trying to deny that other inventions have been achieved outside rivalry, just for the sake of the humanity. And these altruistic inventors are almost always part of the equation within capitalist firms.   My worry is about the institutional design that triggers inventions most efficiently and fastest in its “commercial” stage. Our goal as socialists is to replicate rivalry avoiding the harms of profits privately owned.   Regards,A. Agafonow ________________________________ De: Paul Cockshott <> Para: Outline on Political Economy mailing list <> Enviado: domingo, 2 de noviembre, 2008 22:12:03 Asunto: RE: [OPE] Invention, Inventors, and the Productivity of Labor 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

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