As a prelude to the consideration of capitalist and post-capitalist possibilities, this chapter considers the general nature of the production process. After a review of key contributions by economists in this area, it is argued that mechanistic or physical metaphors should be replaced by a richer narrative that derives from modern informational conceptions of evolution, highlighting the role of knowledge. As well as encompassing communication and meaning, this informational metaphor is much more capable of dealing with key institutional features of capitalism, involving law, property and contract. It suggests conclusions different from those of other leading commentators concerning the shortening of working hours and the limits to comprehensive central planning.
Keywords: production processes, mechanical metaphors, physics and economics, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Alfred Marshall, Thorstein Veblen, knowledge, evolutionary and informational ontology, working time
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