Capitalizing the 'measure of our ignorance': A Pragmatist Genealogy of R&D
As the dust of the Second World War began to settle, that which began life in the U.S. as an experimental space in early twentieth century firms became a knowable object of intervention for economics and accountancy alike. Jumpstarted by the war, research and development, or R&D, was pulled into the experimental forays of a new generation of macroeconomic model builders, on the one hand, and tax-minded business accountants, on the other. At stake for macroeconomists was solving the mystery of the newly discovered "residual." For accountants, the unprecedented reach of federal tax machinery confounded the traditional, albeit rough, distinction between investments in capital and "ordinary and necessary" business expenses. Working within a pragmatic, Deweyian framework, this genealogical history traces the distinct trajectories of post-war macroeconomics and accountancy with an eye to understanding how each came to develop means of valuing R&D. With these trajectories traced, including points of divergence and overlap between them, this talk has two substansive aims: first, to highlight how R&D is paradoxically rendered a capital asset and a (non-capital) business expense, and second, to discuss some of the implications of this paradox for the governance of American society writ large. Finally, through the pursuit of these substansive aims, this talk hopes to demonstrate the strengths of pragmatist genealogy and recommends it as a methodology for wider STS experimentation.
Sarvnaz Lotfi is a Ph.D. Candidate in STS at Virginia Tech.
Refreshments @ 1:30pm