An East Asian Route of Industrialization? The Case of Japan, 1868-1937


In this book Peer Vries is the first scholar to provide an extensive test of the claim that industrialization in East Asia, in particular in Japan between the Meiji Restoration and World War Two, would have been much more labour intensive than industrialization in the West. He does this by systematically comparing the role and importance of labour and capital in Japan and in a number of Western countries at a similar stage of their industrial development. He uses macro-economic data as well as specific observations by people at the time. It turns out that there is no reason to distinguish a specific labour-intensive Japanese route of industrialization. His comparative analysis provides us with a better understanding of the logic of industrialization in both West and East.

Prices from (excl. shipping):

Add to Cart
Peer Vries studied economic and social history at Leiden University where he defended his PhD and worked at the History Department until 2007. From 2007 to 2016 he was Professor of Global Economic History at Vienna University. He published several books and many articles in the field of global history.
List of Graphs and Tables

1The Concept Labour-Intensive Industrialization
 1 Introduction

 2 A Rather Undisputed but Disputable Concept

 3 A Precursor? The Industrious Revolution of Akira Hayami

 4 The Industrious Revolution of Jan de Vries

 5 From Industrious Revolution to Kaoru Sugihara’s Labour-Intensive Industrialization

2Debatable Assumptions about ‘Western’ Industrialization An Empty Dichotomy
 1 Introduction

 2 Different Trajectories and Outcomes

 3 Different Capital- and Energy Intensities

 4 Industriousness in the West, before and during Industrialization

 5 Was the ‘Western’ Route Really Capital- And Energy Intensive?

 6 Was the ‘Western’ Route Really a Consequence of High Wages?

 7 Was ‘Western’ Industry Really an Urban Phenomenon?

 8 Continuity and Change. Was ‘Western’ Industrialization Really Large Scale?

 9 Continuity and Change. Was ‘Western’ Industrialization Really an Encompassing Revolutionary Transformation?

 10 Matters of Definition, Measurement and Comparison. Some Preliminary Comments

3Debatable Assumptions about the Abundance, Industriousness and Skills of Labour in Industrializing Japan
 1 Introduction

 2 Was Labour Abundant in Industrializing Japan?

 3 Discussions about the Existence of a Labour Surplus and Its Consequences

 4 Problems in Finding and Keeping Labour

 5 Different Levels and Consequences of Transience

 6 Was Labour in Industrializing Japan Industrious? A Quantitative Approach
 6.1 Days of Work

 6.2 Hours of Work

 6.3 Participation Rates: Males, Females and Children

 7 Was Labour in Industrializing Japan Industrious in the Sense of Diligent and Dedicated?

 8 Was Labour in Industrializing Japan Skilled?

4Was Labour in Industrializing Japan ‘Cheap’?
 1 Introduction

 2 Direct and Indirect Payments to Labour

 3 The Costs of Fixed Capital

 4 The Costs of Raw Materials, as Compared to Other Costs

 5 Was Japanese Industrial Labour Cheap Considering Its Productivity?

 6 Differing Assessments of the Effects of Low Wages on Japan’s Economic Development

 7 Intermezzo: Labour Productivity at the National Level

 8 Basic Data with Regard to the Silk and Cotton Industries

5Labour Intensity and Labour (In)Efficiency in the Silk and Cotton Industries
 1 Introduction

 2 Developments in the Silk Industry

 3 Developments in the Cotton Industry until World War One

 4 The Cotton Textile Industry after World War One: Increasing Capital Intensity, Rationalization, and Wages Lagging behind Increases in Productivity

 5 Staffing and Labour Productivity in the Cotton Textile Industry in the 1920s and 1930s at the Factory Level According to Western Observers

 6 Quickly Catching Up and Even Forging Ahead from the Beginning of World War One Onwards

 7 Other Causes of Growth Apart from Low Labour Costs and Quickly Rising Labour Productivity

6Labour Intensity Measurements and Comparisons
 1 Introduction

 2 Capital Stock

 3 Matters of Scale

 4 Capital Formation

 5 Saving and Interest Rates

 6 Labour Shares, Gini Coefficients and Consumption

 7 Some Comments on Energy-Intensity

 8 Labour-Intensity and Industrial Structure

 9 Labour Intensity and Trade Structure

7Coda: The Transition to Western Levels of Wealth

8Concluding Remarks and Afterthoughts

Appendix i

Appendix ii



Scholars and students (preferably master students) in the fields of global (economic) history, economic history, (development) economics, East Asian studies, political economy, plus the institutions that are supposed to provide them with books.
  • Collapse
  • Expand