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Versatilità, produzione e tempo: i fondamenti dei cambiamenti economici

Sergio Bruno ()
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Sergio Bruno: Dipartimento di Economia, Sapienza University of Rome Italy

No 3, Working Papers - Dipartimento di Economia from Dipartimento di Economia, Sapienza University of Rome

Abstract: Despite Böhm Bawerk early hints, few contributions deal with the fact that production takes time –so that in each period a share of workers is allocated to build the capacity that will feed the future production of consumption goods- and its consequences, which are relevant, in terms of cost structures and of coordination, out of steady dynamics, when changes occur. There are two different perspectives, a sectoral one (Hicks 1965; Löwe 1976), and the Neo Austrian one (Hicks 1970, 1973), further developed by Amendola and Gaffard. In the first approach both capital and consumption goods require previously produced specific capital capacities; in the second one the only factor is labour. Löwe has been correctly criticised because his model, by assuming malleability of capital when innovations occur, fails to capture the problems raised by the construction of a different capacity. This brought Amendola to conclude that any sectoral approach forestalls to consider the problems connected to changes. My paper provides a sectoral model that escapes such criticisms and allows to perform the same out-of-equilibrium analyses which are allowed by the Neo Austrian one. It shows that the core of the problem is connected with the, always limited, versatility not only of labour but also of technologies. A new way of regarding the problem of innovation, based on the concept of “transition technology”, is set up. The evolution of technologies and of productions is thus regarded as a long chain of efforts which began when human beings first discovered that utensils could be used not only for better producing consumption goods, but also to produce better utensils. The conclusion is that what we are today depends on this chain rooted in our past history, a debt that cannot be acknowledged in terms of value, but only because it exists; the only way we have to pay it back is through efforts for building today the conditions for a better future.

Date: 2009, Revised 2009
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