Capitalism, Economic Dynamics

By MichaŁ Kalecki; Jerzy Osiatyński et al. | Go to book overview

Economic Problems of Production Automation in Capitalist Countries [1] (with Adam Szeworski)
(1957)

1. For several years we have been observing an increased rate of technological progress connected with the practical economic application of scientific discoveries of recent decades, especially in physics, chemistry, etc. One of the results of technological progress which is being ever more widely applied in production is automation. The development of automation of production was highlighted in the last 5-year plan in the Soviet Union as one of the main factors in the anticipated increase in output during this period. In the main capitalist countries, especially in the USA, considerable progress has already been made in automation, which has even had a certain impact on the course of the business cycle in recent years.

This development of automation of production is accompanied by a discussion of its social and economic consequences and of prospects for the further development of human society. The main problem addressed in such discussion is what impact automation, through revolutionizing the production of goods and services, will have on social relations as a whole and whether, in this sense, one can really speak of it as a 'second industrial revolution' with all that this implies.

The social and economic consequences of automation depend on the relations of production in which it takes place. In the capitalist system, automation unquestionably leads to an intensification of the contradictions of capitalism, especially by tending to increase unemployment, which cannot be easily offset by shortening the working day. As we shall see, however, this tendency appears only in a later phase. In the short run, the upswing caused by automation investments may even lead to a net increase in employment.

We shall discuss the essence and nature of automation of production as a special form of technological progress, and its historical and economic prerequisites. Then we shall investigate what impact it may have on the capitalist economy, especially on employment over the short and longer term.

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