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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Tregenna, F., 2009. "The Specificity of Manufacturing in Marx’s Economic Thought," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0937, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  • Handle: RePEc:cam:camdae:0937

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    Marx; Kaldor; manufacturing; growth; cumulative causation;

    JEL classification:

    • B14 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Socialist; Marxist
    • B24 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Socialist; Marxist; Scraffian
    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals
    • B51 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Socialist; Marxian; Sraffian
    • L60 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - General
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology

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