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The Specificity of Manufacturing in Marx’s Economic Thought

  • Tregenna, F.

The manufacturing sector has traditionally been regarded, particularly in development economics and in the Kaldorian literature, as having a ‘special role’ as an engine of growth. This article examines Marx’s approach to manufacturing, and the extent to which manufacturing could be considered to have a special place in Marx’s economic thinking, especially in relation to accumulation and growth. It is demonstrated that the precursors of a number of the important ideas in non-Marxian heterodox economics concerning the special properties of manufacturing may actually be found in Marx’s texts. The important ‘progressive’ features of manufacturing identified by Marx include: division of labour; socialisation of labour; mechanisation; increasing returns to scale; learning-by-doing; technological advancement; and overall, superior potential for cumulative productivity increases. But in a difference with Kaldorian-type approaches, for Marx these properties are not only sector-based. We thus suggest an interpretation of Marx as having a twodimensional conceptualisation of activity-specificity, with sectoral and ‘technologicalorganisational’ dimensions.

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Paper provided by Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge in its series Cambridge Working Papers in Economics with number 0937.

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Date of creation: 12 Oct 2009
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Handle: RePEc:cam:camdae:0937
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