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Resistance to Technology Adoption: The Rise and Decline of Guilds

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  • Desmet, Klaus
  • Parente, Stephen

Abstract

This paper analyzes the decision of a group of specialized workers to form a guild and block the adoption of a new technology that does not require their specialized input. The theory predicts an inverted-U relation between guilds and market size: for small markets, firm profits are insufficient to cover the fixed cost of adopting the new technology, and hence, specialized workers have no reason to form guilds; for intermediate sized markets, firm profits are large enough to cover the higher fixed costs, but not large enough to defeat workers’ resistance, and so workers form guilds and block adoption; and for large markets, these profits are sufficiently large to overcome worker resistance and so guilds disband and the more productive technology diffuses throughout the economy. We show that this inverted-U relation between guilds and market size predicted by our theory exists in a dataset of Italian guilds from the 14th to the 19th century.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 9439.

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Date of creation: Apr 2013
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9439

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Keywords: competition; guilds; market size; resistance to technology; special interest groups; technology adoption;

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  1. Lommerud, Kjell Erik & Meland, Frode & Straume, Odd Rune, 2005. "Globalisation and union opposition to technological change," Working Papers in Economics 01/05, University of Bergen, Department of Economics.
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  14. Klaus Desmet & Stephen L. Parente, 2010. "Bigger Is Better: Market Size, Demand Elasticity, And Innovation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 51(2), pages 319-333, 05.
  15. Feenstra, Robert C., 2003. "A homothetic utility function for monopolistic competition models, without constant price elasticity," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 79-86, January.
  16. Klaus Desmet & Stephen L. Parente, 2009. "The evolution of markets and the revolution of industry: A unified theory of growth," Working Papers 2009-06, Instituto Madrileño de Estudios Avanzados (IMDEA) Ciencias Sociales.
  17. Benjamin Bridgman, 2011. "Competition, Work Rules and Productivity," 2011 Meeting Papers 289, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  18. Hickson, Charles R. & Thompson, Earl A., 1991. "A new theory of guilds and european economic development," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 127-168, April.
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