The Economic Growth Engine
Show Less

The Economic Growth Engine

How Energy and Work Drive Material Prosperity

Robert U. Ayres and Benjamin Warr

The historic link between output (GDP) growth and employment has weakened. Since there is no quantitively verifiable economic theory to explain past growth, this unique book explores the fundamental relationship between thermodynamics (physical work) and economics.
Buy Book in Print
Show Summary Details

Chapter 2: Technical Progress

Robert U. Ayres and Benjamin Warr

Extract

2. 2.1 Technical progress INTRODUCTION In the previous chapter we focused primarily on macroeconomic theories relevant to growth, and secondarily on the role of technology in those theories. In this chapter we reverse the emphasis, focusing on technology and technical progress as such. It must be acknowledged that, although we by no means exclude social technologies and institutional changes from consideration, our discussion hereafter is almost exclusively focused on physical technologies. This bias is due to the fact that it is far more difficult to define a social technology precisely, still less measure its performance in quantitative terms, than it is for a physical technology. However, we assume that most of the general conclusions of this chapter are equally applicable to social technologies as well as to the physical technologies presented here from which most of our examples are taken. 2.2 TECHNOLOGICAL TRAJECTORIES The gradual evolution of a constrained upward-tending knowledge search and acquisition process over decades has been described as a technological trajectory (Perez-Perez 1983; Freeman 1989). We would modify the definition slightly. For us, a technological trajectory is a sequence of developments starting from a distinct functional configuration utilizing a basic principle. For instance, the ‘atmospheric’ reciprocating steam engine beginning with Newcomen can be regarded as the starting point of a trajectory. The trajectory changed direction and was accelerated by James Watt’s condensing engine. This was followed by his double-acting valve system, the ‘sun and planet’ gearing, and the crank and flywheel scheme for...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.

Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.


Further information

or login to access all content.