[OPE-L:5634] labor process and R&D labor

Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Sat, 25 Oct 1997 16:01:54 -0800

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While Fred has analyzed the contribution the incline in the ratio of
unproductive to productive labor has made to falling profitability, it
seems that neo-Schumpeterians now enthuse about the downward trend of
production workers (as defined in the US Dictionary of Occupational Titles)
in the manufacturing industries.

Arguing that non-production workers are really "change agents"--those whose
employment in engineering, management and sales are necessary to develop
and implement and adapt customers to new technology, as well as to imitate
and adapt to changes in the economic environment--neo Schumpeterians have
come to understand much of the growth of non-productive labor (again as
officially defined) as a "meta-investment"--that is all the management and
adjustment costs occasioned by technical change. Note that meta-investment
is not limited to those scientists and engineers involved in research and

The neo-Schumpeterians are most optimistic about the relative decline of
production workers. Indeed the conclusion is reached:

"In sum, there is a tendency for the proportion of production workers to
vary inversely with both growth rates of output and improvement in labor
productivity across all sectors. The sectors with the lowest proportion of
production workers stand out because they employ such a low proportion of
production workers and exhibit such dramatic growth in volume and
productivity...On average, the more rapidly a sector is growing and
changing, the higher its proportion of non-prodution employment and, in
particular, the higher the proportion of profession and technical personnel
it employs. Total employment of professional and technical personnel is an
order of magnitude larger than R&D employment."

Perhaps this is implicitly understood as empirical disconfirmation of the
labor theory of value?


Anne P Carter "Production Workers, Metainvestment and the Pace of Change"
in Behavioral Norms, Technological Progress and Economic Dynamics, ed.
Ernst Helmstadter and Mark Perlman. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan
Press, 1996: 183-198).