chapter  4
22 Pages

Proto- industrialization and labour- intensive industrialization: reflections on Smithian growth and the role of skill intensity

WithOSAMU SAITO

This collective volume asks whether we can identify a labour-intensive path of long-term economic development as a historical alternative to the Western capital-intensive industrialization path, and whether the former occupied an indispensable place in the East Asian miracle (Sugihara, this volume). From time to time, however, a similar suggestion has been made with respect to the West : that even in Western Europe labour-intensity played a role in its long-term development. For example, ‘proto-industrialization’ was a concept devised to capture such historical phenomena. The original thesis was conceived by Franklin Mendels, the Göttingen group and other historians, not necessarily as an alternative path to industrialization, but as one representing a stage prior to the Industrial Revolution (Mendels 1972, 1982; Kriedte et al. 1982; see also Ogilvie and Cerman 1996a, 1996b). As we will see below, however, protoindustrialization was undoubtedly one form of labour-intensive industrialization. Neither thesis, both concerned with historical situations of labour abundance, considers it a hindrance to further development. In this chapter, therefore, I shall begin by re-examining the proto-industrialization debate in the hope that lessons may be learnt for labour-intensive industrialization. In so doing I will pay particu lar attention to the concept of Smithian growth and the quality of labour, especially skill, and their relevance to the discussion of proto-and labourintensive industrialization. I will go on to argue that both forms of industrialization should be placed in the context of interplay between the extent of the market and the increasing division of labour, and that the role of skill intensity, however measured, has been neglected both in the proto-industrialization debate and in the formulation of theories concerning labour-intensive industrialization. It is hoped that the recognition of their importance will shed fresh light on the issues of divergent paths not just in Asia, but in the West as well.