A Theory of Production: Tasks, Processes, and Technical Practices

A Theory of Production: Tasks, Processes, and Technical Practices

A Theory of Production: Tasks, Processes, and Technical Practices

A Theory of Production: Tasks, Processes, and Technical Practices

Synopsis

This book presents a new theoretical framework for the analysis of production processes. Based on a rigorous reconstruction of the intellectual heritage of economics, it also considers issues traditionally left aside by economists--the distinctions of the three dimensions of the production process (tasks, capabilities, and materials in process), the organizational approach to scale and size, and the idea that different institutional set-ups may be compatible with the same objective standard of efficiency.

Excerpt

This study presents a new theoretical framework for the investigation of the production process and applies it to the analysis of the concept of productive scale, which is found to perform a critical role in production theory. This inquiry was originally stimulated by the realization that the concept of scale of production may be associated with a number of distinct analytical treatments, and that the way in which productive scale is described is rooted in the fundamental logical structure of the corresponding theoretical framework (see Scazzieri, 1979; 1981; 1982).

In subsequent years I began to realize that a comprehensive treatment of the scale phenomena relevant in the economic theory of production requires a description of the production process in terms of tasks, capabilities, and material transformations, that is features that are not exhaustively considered in standard economic theory. As a result, a new theoretical framework began to emerge, which owes its inspiration to the theories of the classical economists (to Smith's theory of division of labour in particular) and takes up a number of contributions to be found in subsequent literature, from Gioja--Babbage's law of multiples to Marshall's analysis of the industrial district and Georgescu-Roegen's model of fund and flow-input utilization. The unifying framework for the above theories is provided by the concept of 'technical interrelatedness', which may be defined as the interdependence among operations performed within a particular production process, or within a network of interrelated processes, quite independently of explicit transactions among productive units (see also Scazzieri, 1987a for a first outline of this approach).

The present study formulates an economic theory of tasks and processes that may be associated with the above general framework. In particular, the implications of three interconnected ideas will be explored: (i) the production process is described as a network of primitive operations (or 'tasks'), rather than as a combination of input and output quantities; (ii) the structure of each production process is associated with the particular way in which the tasks required to obtain a given type of output are performed by the productive agents capable of executing them; (iii) the scale of each production process is identified with the number of simultaneous tasks that are performed within it, rather than with the level of output delivered at any given time.

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