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infrastructurethe basic physical structure of a society or an organization, especially the stock of fixed capital equipment in a country e.g. means of transport, schools and factories, etc.
a term that originated in economic literature at the end of the 1940’s to designate the complex of economic branches serving industry and agriculture. The infrastructure includes roads, canals, ports, bridges, airports, warehouses, energy facilities, railroads, communications, water supply and sewerage, general and professional education, scientific research, health care, and other such installations and functions.
The term “infrastructure” is borrowed from military usage, where it refers to the complex of logistical installations supporting the operations of armed forces, including depots of ammunition and other military matériel, airports, rocket bases, firing ranges, missile launching pads, and so on. A special committee of infrastructure has been organized in NATO.
In Soviet economic science, the infrastructure is divided into two groups: production and nonproduction (social). The first group includes branches of the infrastructure directly serving material production, such as railroads and highways, water supply, and sewerage. The second group consists of branches linked indirectly with the process of production, including training of personnel, education, and health care.
A typical feature of the infrastructure of the capitalist economy is its dual nature. On the one hand, without the development of these branches, there can be no industrial and agricultural enterprises or the goods and surplus value created by them. With the advent of the scientific and technological revolution, it has become clear that the rate of growth and the efficiency of production depend directly on the development of the infrastructure. On the other hand, the creation and operation of the branches do not bring profits to those who make capital investments in them, although the profits of industrial and agricultural companies are increased by such investments. The higher the development of productive forces, the greater the capital investments required by the branches of the infrastructure. A number of branches have become the object of imperialist competitive struggle, including such fields as science, education, training of personnel, transport, and electrical energy, because the growth of production and profits in the interimperialist competitive struggle depend upon capital investment in these areas.
The dual nature of the infrastructure has changed the problem of its creation from a technical to a social problem, and the development of state-monopoly capitalism has made it possible to transfer the burden of financing and developing the infrastructure to the state budget, that is, onto the shoulders of the masses. In contemporary imperialist states a sharp demarcation of economic functions has occurred: private capital owns the enterprises that create surplus value, and the state has taken over financing and developing the branches of the infrastructure that aid in increasing the profits of the private companies. However, the effort by monopoly capital to divest itself of expenditures for financing low-profit or deficit branches has contributed to a transfer of these branches to the ownership of imperialist states, with the monopolies retaining rights of control over them.
The process of socialization of production under capitalism has created a need for a shift to state ownership of economic branches that, by their nature, require social regulation. As Engels wrote in Anti-Dühring, “this necessity for conversion to state property is felt first in the great institutions for intercourse communication—the post office, the telegraphs, railways” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 20, p. 289).
The concentration of branches of the infrastructure in the hands of capitalist states also serves the aggressive nature of imperialism. The building of strategic highways, the unified management of rail transport and communications, the training of military personnel, and the development of science for military purposes all create a need for the transfer of these branches to the control of the state. The objective necessity forcing bourgeois states to take upon themselves the creation of the large infrastructure complex demonstrates that the process of socialization of production has already gone so far that the private sector is not capable of coping with the individual branches of the economy. “The transformation of the great establishments for production and distribution into joint-stock companies and state property shows how unnecessary the bourgeoisie are for that purpose” (ibid., p. 289).
The problem of the interdependence between production and the branches of the economy serving it emerged much earlier than the appearance of the term “infrastructure.” Studies were conducted on the necessary proportions of the development of industry to the branches serving it. With the development of state-monopoly capitalism, the branches of the infrastructure began to be regarded as a means of regulation of the economy. Although these branches do not produce a product that exerts pressure on the market, the people employed in them receive salaries that contribute to increasing the effective purchasing power of the population.
The attempts of bourgeois economists to find a means to reduce the effect of economic crises led them to the concept of the infrastructure as among the most important means of equalizing the volume of production and effective purchasing demand. Specialized publications in the USA and West Germany have published systematic elaborations of the development of the branches of the infrastructure for ten and 25 years, giving calculations on the influence of this development on the rate of industrial growth. However, the theoretical questions of the infrastructure in bourgeois political economy still have not been worked out. Economists disagree on which branches of the economy should be considered as part of the infrastructure. To justify the transfer of enormous expenditures to the state budget, these expenses are designated by the terms “social expenses of society” and “supplementary capital.” All attempts of bourgeois economists to give a definition of infrastructure that would reveal its essence, nature, and place in capitalist reproduction have been subjected to sharp criticism by other bourgeois economists as deficient and unconvincing.
The infrastructure as a social problem is characteristic only for the capitalist method of production. Socialism is required to deal only with its technical-economic aspect, which is solved by scientific planning. But even for the socialist countries, the infrastructure presents the problem of proportions between itself and basic production and the problem of the efficiency of social production. Study of these proportions and the exposition of objective laws in this field have great importance for the rate of socialist reproduction, the growth of productivity of social labor, and the economical use of resources, which is to say that decisions in this area are of central importance to communist construction as a whole.
In the USSR the ninth five-year plan envisages accelerated rates of growth of a number of branches of infrastructure, among them electrical energy, transport, education, and health care, with the purpose of meeting the needs of the national economy and raising the well-being of the working people.
REFERENCESTezisy osnovnykh dokladov i vystuplenii na nauchnoi konferentsiipo teme “Infrastruktura i ee rol’ v sovremennom kapitalisticheskom vosproizvodstve.” Moscow, 1969.
Semenkova, T. “Infrastruktura i sfera uslug.” Mirovaia ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia, 1971, no. 3.
Pai, L. “Obostrenie klassovykh konfliktov v otrasliakh sotsial’noi infrastruktury FRG.” Sotsialisticheskii trud, 1971, no. 11.
Michalski, W. Infrastrukturpolitik im Engpass. Hamburg, 1966.
Jochimsen, R. Theorie der Infrastruktur. Tübingen, 1966.
Zechlin, H. Staatliche Infrastrukturplanung in der Markwirtschaft. Marburg, 1965. (Dissertation.)
Rosenstein-Rodan, P. N. Notes on the Theory of the “Big Push.” Cambridge, 1957.
Nurkse, R. Problems of Capital Formation in Underdeveloped Countries. Oxford, 1955.
Hirschman, A. O. The Strategy of Economic Development. New Haven, 1958.
Youngson, A. J. Overhead Capital. Edinburgh, 1967.
G. P. SOLIUS
See also information superhighway.
infrastructure(1) The fundamental structure of a system or organization. The basic, fundamental architecture of any system (electronic, mechanical, social, political, etc.) determines how it functions and how flexible it is to meet future requirements.
(2) May refer to system and development programs in contrast to applications. A computer system's infrastructure would include the operating system, database management system (DBMS), communications protocols, compilers and other development tools.