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Resistance to Technology Adoption: The Rise and Decline of Guilds

  • Desmet, Klaus
  • Parente, Stephen

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
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9439
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  1. Kjell Lommerud & Frode Meland & Odd Rune Straume, 2004. "Globalisation And Union Opposition To Technological Change," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2004 49, Royal Economic Society.
  2. Klaus Desmet & Stephen Parente, 2012. "The evolution of markets and the revolution of industry: a unified theory of growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 17(3), pages 205-234, September.
  3. Gianmarco Ottaviano & Takatoshi Tabuchi & Jacques-Francois Tissse, 1999. "Agglomeration and Trade Revisited," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-65, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
  4. 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.
  5. Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2004. "Guilds, efficiency, and social capital: evidence from German proto-industry," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 57(2), pages 286-333, 05.
  6. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:120:y:2005:i:2:p:701-728 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. 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.
  8. Stephen L. Parente & Rui Zhao, 2006. "Slow Development And Special Interests," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 47(3), pages 991-1011, 08.
  9. Philippe Aghion & Nicholas Bloom & Richard Blundell & Rachel Griffith & Peter Howitt, 2002. "Competition and innovation: an inverted U relationship," IFS Working Papers W02/04, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  10. repec:oup:qjecon:v:119:y:2004:i:1:p:249-275 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Peretto, Pietro F., 1997. "Technological Change, Market Rivalry, and the Evolution of theCapitalist Engine of Growth," Working Papers 97-06, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  12. 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.
  13. James A. Schmitz, 2005. "What determines productivity? lessons from the dramatic recovery of the U.S. and Canadian iron-ore industries following their early 1980s crisis," Staff Report 286, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  14. Stephen L. Parente & Edward C. Prescott, 1997. "Monopoly rights: a barrier to riches," Staff Report 236, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  15. Steven C. Salop, 1979. "Monopolistic Competition with Outside Goods," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 141-156, Spring.
  16. Dowrick, Steve & Spencer, Barbara J, 1994. "Union Attitudes to Labor-Saving Innovation: When Are Unions Luddites?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12(2), pages 316-44, April.
  17. repec:oup:restud:v:63:y:1996:i:2:p:301-29 is not listed on IDEAS
  18. repec:oup:qjecon:v:120:y:2005:i:2:p:701-728 is not listed on IDEAS
  19. Benjamin Bridgman, 2011. "Competition, Work Rules and Productivity," 2011 Meeting Papers 289, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  20. Epstein, S. R., 1998. "Craft Guilds, Apprenticeship, and Technological Change in Preindustrial Europe," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(03), pages 684-713, September.
  21. Yang, Xiaokai & Heijdra, Ben J, 1993. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 295-301, March.
  22. Elias Dinopoulos & Constantinos Syropoulos, 2007. "Rent Protection as a Barrier to Innovation and Growth," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 309-332, August.
  23. Wolcott, Susan, 1994. "The Perils of Lifetime Employment Systems: Productivity Advance in the Indian and Japanese Textile Industries, 1920–1938," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(02), pages 307-324, June.
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