There used to be more research and debate on the negative effects of labour resistance on early industrialisation, but that topic has been crowded out by the intense focus on inequality of recent years. There now prevails a quiet presumption that labour movements have made only positive and large contributions to the historical rise in living standards.
So I illustrate the relevance of labour relations to early industrisalisation through the contrasting fortunes of India’s and Japan’s cotton textile industries in the interwar period, with some glimpses of Lancashire, the USA, interwar Shanghai, etc.
TL;DR version: At the beginning of the 20th century, the Indian and the Japanese textile industries had similar levels of wages and productivity, and both were exporting to global markets. But by the 1930s, Japan had surpassed the UK to become the world’s dominant exporter of textiles; while the Indian industry withdrew behind the tariff protection…
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