Technical progress

under technical progress one understands an improvement of the technical initial position of a national economy or the whole of all technical innovations of a culture. Either a same output (output) with a smaller employment at work or means of production (inputs) can be provided by technical progress or a higher quantity with the same employment of means of production and work. Apart from the quantitative improvement of the input output relationship there are also qualitative improvements like new products (technology history). Technical progress has among other things cultural and social effects.

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historical considerations

the invention of the weaving loom caused first fears, thus it would come to mass unemployment. This idea is considered today as outdated.

In earlier times of mankind history the speed of the technical progress was very slowly, even if it likewise came in larger time intervals to large circulations, for instance the Neolithi revolution.

Historically it quite gave times with technical backward step apart from times with technical progress also. As classical example the fall of the antique culture with the following Middle Ages is considered. However the historical scientists in this question argue, to what extent for example in certain ranges (spreading of the Wassermühle) the technical progress continued to go also during the Middle Ages.

In the most recent time the question often arose whether technical progress creates jobs or on the contrary a cause for unemployment was. This question dipped already 1821 with David Ricardo and later in the discussion around automation and rationalization .

However some acceptance are made. A sinking active volume is used for the production of the rising goods and service offer, because the purchasing power and/or. the purchase desires more slowly than the productivity rise, which is expressed in a rising rate of saving. In addition a free market or capitalistic society is presupposed, at which the employees have to do a certain work time that thus sinking active volume is not converted in work time - Verkürzung. On these assumption a pessimism develops - for problem. Under these conditions it looks in such a way, as if technical progress must lead to the fact that the number of jobs must decrease.

Indeed it can happen on the assumption from all day busy employees that manpowers are replaced by machines in the course of technical progress. The classical economist Ricardo admitted that technical progress can destroy jobs. Sometimes similar views are subordinated to Karl Marx (law of the tendentious case of the profit rate), since he expected always far rising employment at means of production a for each job in production as a condition for technical progress. If a machine replaces ten workers in the pin factory, then would have ten workers will dismiss - if not the demand for pins to reconciliation rises accordingly or is worked accordingly more briefly. Thus became around 1900 in Germany in the year approx. 3000 h worked, today are it on the average approx. 1400 h.

Such vague considerations tried philosophers to represent such as Karl Popper or the growth theory of the economic science more systematically (see lower sections).


technical progress can take place evolutionary or in a revolutionary manner.

The three main manifestations of the technical progress are:

  1. Automation
  2. rationalization and
  3. the synergies, positive scale effects

it goes with technical progress however not only around the increase of the productivity that about a certain number of humans can manufacture ever more cars, but also around qualitative changes, around innovations, innovations with the produced products for the consumption of humans.


whether the technical progress of the society is useful or not and/or. whether this is positively or taken up negatively, depends on how the policy carries ensuring briskly that the won economic or technical clearance comes to the entire society.

If one relies only on the pure market forces, it can happen that workers are set free, of progress nothing to then abbekommen. In the public opinion such an unfavorable picture over automation can develop because of unemployment threatening thereby, although thereby work can be settled perhaps even better and more rapidly, one e.g. thinks. at ticket automats in the comparison to the old ticket salesman.

In the nature the criticism really does not arrange itself to technical progress against this, as much the more against the increasing poverty of humans, after the job destruction. State some that the job destruction would be the result of the technical progress. Against the fact history shows that technical progress is connected with shorter hours and rising standard of living (of 2000 h/Jahr around 1960 on 1340 h/Jahr around 2004). The insufficient Verkürzung of the work time destroys jobs and lowers production - see Okun law. The robot is an example of the technical progress and thus not debt at unemployment. But nevertheless of many enterprises or enterprises states it would be debt at the job destruction.

The technical progress is endangered also today by the fact that the clearing-up of the “Maschinenstürmer “hardly takes place. Can to their arguments be worked against, if by saving of human work and the replacement of work by machines etc. - Rationalization investments - not only the unearned incomes of the entrepreneurs or owners of fortune to be in accordance with-honoured, but over the income distribution also all different.

It is advisable to ensure that the saved work time also against the interests of the enterprises over e.g. Work time - Verkürzung with full wage adjustment again the employees benefits. Also the profits could be taxed to the existence safety device of the broad population. This should prevent the envy debate. Otherwise the danger exists the fact that the machine storming he mentality celebrates merry Urstände and also further over subsidies artificially work remains, which became technically actually redundant. The labor-saving effect of the technical progress comes into conflict with Biblical ark types à la “who does not work, is not also to eat “, which are however still a substantial ideology component of our society.

This ideology is one of the barriers, which can brake the technical progress. It was lasting for thousands of years primarily humans, the mainly produced and technical progress with saving of human work by machines, tools or robots was rare or took place in very slow processes. From Roman realm for example is history well-known, according to which an inventor of shatterproof glass, after it had told unklugerweise to the emperor that except it nobody knew the secret of the production, was executed, because the emperor was afraid to large disturbances in the economic life by this new invention. “Gold would be only worth shit”, as it is called drastic in the guest meal of the Trimalchio.

As children of the Maschinenstürmer are today occasionally criticized:
1. over entitled concerns going out fears over everything that concerns nuclear power, in favor of an expansion of human occupation in the alternative Ökoenergiebranche.
2. Jobs must create the password generally “we “detached by the actual original purpose by work to create i.e. more to place a better supply and the infrastructure ready for it.

Also the experienced complaint in addition, it is to be saved badly humans, only for growth, is not conclusive. Because growth does not mean more products and services only for humans and less or for something else than humans (times apart from the armament). Altogether by the technical progress ever more is taken humans given than. Nobody produces simply more, only for the own stocks.

The technical progress actually does not work simply negatively, negatively is only the delay of the policy to also give the winning the apparent losers of the progress. The economy does not have to do the task this. For their requests is appropriate only in the profit.

Briefly: Who and the money wants to work, is not only debt, even if he gets on a long-term basis only work and not money. The industry is not carrier of the connection. The nature from work did not turn around what must be done, as expiration in a production process and production processes for more work, which needs for its part none.

modern trend of explanation beginnings

by the technical progress today also products can be manufactured, their production were before not possible. Already existing products can be produced more economically, which benefits the consumers over lower prices or the enterprises by higher profits. In the latter case the enterprises can invest more, whereby the productivity can again be increased or improved qualitatively.

Fließbandarbeit - erfunden von Henry Ford
Assembly line work - teaches invented of Henry

Ford the observation of earlier decades that by technical progress the wages and also the social security also the set free workers can rise - and it can develop also still new jobs. Inflation conditioned the prices, the incomes rose rose however more strongly, the real income of the employees and thus the purchasing power increased thus, despite or straight because of the technical progress. It can be assumed thus that with future technical progress a similar development can be achieved.

Besides enterprises will occur the market, which qualified no production by the concentration personnel in other enterprises start before could, because they did not have this highly-qualified personnel. Now can be competitively produced however owing to technical progress also without much highly-qualified personnel. It is similar with the new machines, which reduce production in price and so make market entrances possible of new enterprises. In such enterprises from it possibly again new jobs, which it would not have given without technical progress, result, because the enterprise would not have been created at all.

In the long run also for necessary production and maintenance by straight are needed those machines, which replace the jobs, jobs.

Technical progress leads with also to structural change. In addition it is discussed in the context of the globalization criticism.


a strong and a rigid, itself interlacing globalization of techniques can be connected with dangers quite also. Above all new, possibly lasting (“systemic”) disaster dangers develop (see. Charles Perrowe, normal accidents).

systematic consideration

the philosopher Karl Popper gives in its work „the open society and its enemies “, to volume 2 „Hegel and Marx “a systematic compilation, how a society can react to an increase of the productivity, which results because of technical progress.

The higher productive strength the available can be used for:

  • Case A: Capital goods. Then one invests, in order to manufacture more capital goods, which increase the productivity still more. The problem is shifted into the future. Popper regards this therefore as no continuous solution.
  • Case B: Consumer goods
    • for the entire population
    • for a part of the population
  • case C: Work time - Verkürzung
    • daily work time
    • the number „of unproductive “workers, Popper means those outside of the producing trade, rises, in particular scientist, physicians, artist, businessmen etc.

Popper draws a line here now. So far it acted over for the population pleasing effects of an increase of the productivity. There is however also unpleasant effects conceivable.

  • Case D: The number of goods, which produces, but neither to be consumed nor invested, rises
    • consumer goods destroys
    • capital goods is not used, i.e. Enterprises are appropriate fallow
    • it goods, which are neither investment nor consumer goods, are produced, for z. B. Weapons (see also Rüstungskeynesianismus, permanent arms economy)
    • work is used, in order to destroy capital goods and so the productivity again lower.

The growth theory tries to measure possible effects of technical progress mathematically.

to growth theory

Harrod Domar model

see detailed discussion under Harrod Domar model.

The following considerations presuppose free-market economy or capitalism . One proceeds from full-time workers. For these the economic growth must create jobs. Like that is possible with one in certain way defined technical progress, that examine in the economic science of development models. A well-known and simple development model is that the economist Harrod and Domar.

In order to measure, under which technical progress of jobs creates conditions or makes dispensable, one can pull simple development models of the economic science to rate. A well-known development model is the Harrod Domar model, which deduces the conditions for a equivalent growth and can consider also technical progress. The model proceeds from the double character of the investments , which are on the one hand a part of the overall economic demand (the other part the consumer expenditures are) and on the other hand the capital stick and thus the potential offer increase. In weighty growth demand is to be equal to offer. The following balance condition results:

<math> g = {s \ over v}< /math>

  • g: equivalent growth rate, the offer equal demand manufactures.
  • s: Saving equal investment ratio, portion of the savings of the income, which is in the equilibrium as demand equal to the economical offer at goods. s is thereby also the portion of the investments of the total production.
  • v: Kapitalkoeffizient, it indicates, how much capital stick is necessary, in order to be able to manufacture a certain output.

Offer-laterally: Weighty growth is the higher, the more largely the part of the offer, which is equal to the demand, for investment purposes is used.

Demand-laterally: Weighty growth is the higher, the more largely the part of the income, thus the demand, is saved, in order to finance investments in such a way.

This part is called s, the rate of saving, thus the part of the production or the income, for which one saves, in order to finance investments.

Applies that weighty growth is the lower, the is higher the Kapitalkoeffizient v. The more capitals to be used must, in order to provide a certain output, the more slowly is weighty growth.

If there is no technical progress, then the weighty growth the “natural”, to which to demographically correspond given growth of the work offer, should otherwise is not sufficient either the work offer not or it develops ever more largely becoming unemployment.

<math> {s \ over v} = n< /math>

  • n: Population growth

the technical progress is introduced in such a way to the model that it is accepted that the capital expenditure for each worker (or for each job), who capital intensity, with a certain rate (m) grows, and that by it the productivity likewise with this rate grows. In addition it is accepted that the wages grow likewise for each workers with this rate.

This growth rate m of the productivity and the capital intensity is understood as growth rate of the technical progress. If production would be constant, then could in each year in accordance with this rate (- m) jobs be away-rationalized, the occupation shrank thus. If no unemployment is to thus develop, weighty growth must now amount to:

<math> {s \ over v} = m + n< /math>

  • m: Growth rate of the technical progress, defines as growth rate of the productivity and the capital intensity.
  • n: demographically, thus exogenously given population growth, which is equal to the growth of the work offer.

Such a growth can be achieved - according to this model -, as the saving and investment ratio s are increased if required. Since investments are financed primarily from the profit and not from the Lohneinkommen, the economic policy demands also frequently with continuous unemployment gemässg gives moderate wage policy and higher profit incomes, all to release more investments, growth and occupation. Certainly such a policy can lead also to distribution conflicts, since the profit incomes are to be expanded debited to the Lohneinkommen.

Technical progress leads thus to it that in the comparison to the total production more capital goods are needed, as without technical progress, is full employment to be obtained. However it concerns a unique victim, is the rate of saving s large enough, then from then on the wages can grow for each worker in accordance with the growth rate of the technical progress, thus like the productivity.

production function

technical progress can be built in different kinds into a production function, for example:

A production function indicates, how much it can be produced (Y), if a certain quantity of work A is used and on „capital “ , capital stick or means of production K:

<math> Y = f (K, A)< /math>

Of labor-saving, work-increasing or Harrod - neutral one speaks technical progress, if applies:

<math> Y = f (K, A (t) \ cdot A)< /math>

  • A (t) is with the time t a more largely becoming factor, which illustrates the productivity rising gradually because of the technical progress.

The Hicks is less common - neutral technical progress

< math> Y = A (t) \ cdot f (K, A)< /math>

and the Solow - neutral, principal or principal technical progress

< math> Y = f (A (t) \ cdot K, A)< /math>.

In former times an attempt to explain technical progress endogenously is the technical progress function of Nicholas Kaldor. In the meantime there is the endogenous growth theory.


  • Bernhard Irrgang: “Philosophy of the technology: Technical progress ". Paderborn; Munich; Vienna; Zurich: Schöningh, 2002, ISBN 3-506-74206-X

of quotations

  • Revolution would cause 269 a development of the productive forces, which the absolute number of workers decreased , because it would set the majority of the population except course. Karl Marx, MEW 25, the capital III, S.

see also


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