[OPE-L:7229] [OPE-L:754] Re: abstract labour

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 25 Mar 1999 08:40:42 -0500 (EST)

Another message intended for the list./ In solidarity, Jerry

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 1999 13:35:02 +0000
From: clyder@gn.apc.org

At 06:52 AM 25-03-99 -0500, you wrote:
>In [OPE-L:749], Paul C wrote:
>> If anyone is to
>> be credited with developing the idea of abstract labour it should
>> be Black and Watt.
>Who were Black and Watt and what were the titles, etc. of their
>In solidarity, Jerry
They were contemporaries of Smith on the staff of the University
of Glasgow, Black was a poineer of thermodynamics, and Watt of
course was the inventor of the steam engine. Black developed the
idea that heat could be quantified and the concept of latent heat,
going on from Blacks work, Watt developed the separate condensor
with an aim to economise on heat. Having done so he needed a means
of measuring the relationship between heat consumed and work done
by an engine, and developed the horsepower as a measure of capacity
to do work in the abstract. Abstract work was then defined in
terms of horsepower over a period.

They were not economists, but of course neither was Smith, who
lectured on moral philosophy, what I am saying is that the concept
of heat in the abstract and work in the abstract were common currency
in Smith's day.

For a summary of their work see 'From Watt to Clausius, the rise
of Thermodynamics in the Early Industrial Age', D. S. Cardwell
IOWA State University Press.
Paul Cockshott