[OPE-L:5642] Re: labor process and R&D labor

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 27 Oct 1997 08:02:30 -0500 (EST)

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Paul C wrote on Mon, 27 Oct:

> Some R&D labour is
> certainly devoted to the development of a predetermined use value.

But is the use-value really predetermined? It seems to me that the very
nature of R&D involves uncertainty and risk such that what is projected to
be the outcome of the research (the "predetermined" use-value) may or may
not materialize (or it may materialize in ways quite unanticipated at the
outset of the research). In a way, this makes R&D expenditures by firms
similar to gambling and speculation -- the major difference being that
the firms may have greater reason to believe that their "bet" is going to
pay-off and they will, consequently, be in the "winner's circle." If R&D
involves a greater degree of uncertainty and risk then it may be the case
that some firms, especially those with a high degree of monopoly control,
may purposely avoid large expenditures on R&D.

[This reminds me of a very funny scene from the movie "Barbarians at the
Gate" starring James Garner ("Rockford"). The movie concerned a take-over
bid by the CEO of RJR Reynolds (one of the major multinational tobacco
companies based out of the US). Anyway, the scene I am reminded of
was where a scientist in charge of R&D was reporting back to the CEO
(Garner) on the development of a smokeless cigarette. It seems that their
research was successful ... sort of. They did develop a smokeless
cigarette, but the problem was that it *quite literally* smelt like human
feces. Garner: "Are you trying to tell me that we spent tens of millions
of dollars to develop a cigarette that smells like s--t?!". Incidentally,
it's a good movie suitable for classroom instruction.].

In solidarity, Jerry