Radical Political Economy: Explorations in Alternative Economic Analysis

By Victor D. Lippit | Go to book overview

production has not been technology--exogenous and inexorable--but the exercise of power--endogenous and resistible.


Notes
1.
F. Engels, "On Authority," first published in Almenacco Republicano, 1894; English translation in Marx and Engels, Basic Writings in Politics and Philosophy, L. Feuer (ed.), Doubleday and Co., Garden City, New York, 1959, p. 483. Emphasis added.
2.
The attribution of the division of labor to efficiency antedates Adam Smith by at least two millenia. Plato, indeed, argued for the political institutions of the Republic on the basis of an analogy with the virtue of specialization in the economic sphere. Smith's specific arguments were anticipated by Henry Martyn three quarters of a century before the publication of the Wealth of Nations. See Considerations Upon the East-India Trade, London, 1701.
3.
For a concise and elegant discussion of the relationship between technological efficiency and least-cost methods of production, see Tjalling Koopmans, Three Essays on the State of Economic Science, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1957, essay 1, especially pp. 66-126.
4.
At least in the constant-returns-to-scale version of the competitive economy. Any other version implies the existence of a factor of production (like "entrepreneurial effort") that is not traded on the market, and with respect to which the model is therefore noncompetitive.
5.
"We may, therefore, assume either that the landowner will hire laborers for a wage . . . or that the laborers will hire the land for rent." Knut Wicksell, Lectures on Political Economy (translated by E. Classen), Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1934, vol. I, p. 109.

"Remember that in a perfectly competitive market it really doesn't matter who hires whom; so have labor hire 'capital' . . .," Paul Samuelson, "Wage and Interest: A Modern Dissection of Marxian Economic Models," American Economic Review, December, 1957.

6.
A. Smith, The Wealth of Nations (Cannan edition), Random House, New York, 1937, p. 7.
7.
Smith, op. cit., pp. 734-735.
8.
Smith, op. cit., pp. 4-5.
9.
T. S. Ashton, "The Records of a Pin Manufactory--1814-21," Economica, November, 1925, pp. 281-292.
10.
For another example, cotton handloom weaving, though described by J. L. and Barbara Hammond in a volume entitled The Skilled Laborer, Longmans Green, London, 1919, was apparently a skill quickly learned (p. 70). A British manufacturer testified before a parliamentary committee that "a lad of fourteen may acquire a sufficient knowledge of it in six weeks." Duncan Bythell The Handloom Weavers, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 1969, which is my immediate source for the manufacturer's testimony, is quite explicit: "Cotton handloom weaving, from its earliest days, was an unskilled, casual occupation which provided a domestic by-trade for thousands of women and children . . ." (p. 270)

The apparent ease with which, according to the Hammonds, women replaced male woolen weavers gone off to fight Napoleon suggests that woolen weaving too was not such a difficult skill to acquire (op. cit., pp. 60-162). Indeed the competition of women in some branches of the woolen trade was such that in at least one place the men felt obliged to bind themselves collectively "not to allow any women to learn the trade" (ibid., p. 162), an action that would hardly have been necessary if the requisite strength or skill had been beyond the power of women to acquire. The role of war-induced labor shortages in breaking down artificial sex barriers, and the subsequent difficulties in reestablishing these barriers is reminiscent of American experience in World War II.

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