Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gindin and Panitch and the "Four Transformations"

Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch try to understand and explain how the world has changed over the last half century or so:
Four specific transformations were especially important in this restructuring of the economy and social relations in the US, each with particular implications for the making of global capitalism. The first of these was the relationship between industry and finance. A much larger share of total corporate profits now went to the financial sector: between 1960 and 1984, the financial sector’s share of domestic corporate profits averaged 17 percent; from then through 2007 it averaged 30 percent, peaking at 44 percent in 2002. ...

The second transformation— the one most associated with the thesis of US decline—occurred in the core industries that had fueled American economic dynamism in the postwar era. The old labor-intensive sectors like shoes, textiles, food, and beverage had seen a sharp contraction well before the 1980s, but it was rising imports and the corresponding loss of jobs in steel, auto, and machinery that occasioned alarm about the state of American manufacturing. …  But more was going on here than the word “decline” could adequately capture. By the end of the century, a major restructuring had occurred within these industries. In the auto industry there were eighteen assembly plant closures between 1988 and 1999, but thirteen new plants also opened, while the sixty-six auto-parts plants that closed over these years were more than offset by 184 new parts plants. Moreover, the number of plant expansions greatly exceeded the number of downsizings. ... 
All this brings us to the third transformation— the shift to high-tech manufacturing production. This new industrial revolution—which soon spread globally and encompassed computer and telecommunications equipment, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, and scientific instruments— was largely American-led in terms of its origins and concentration, and of the mechanisms of its subsequent diffusion abroad. …  By the end of the century, of the top dozen global firms by sector, the US accounted for 77 percent of the world’s aerospace sales, 75 percent of all sales of computers and office equipment, 91 percent of computer software sales, and 62 percent of pharmaceuticals....

The fourth structural transformation in the economy involved the growth of a diverse range of “professional and business services” that ranged across consulting, law, accounting, market research, engineering, computer software, and systems analysis.  Here, the number of jobs increased dramatically. In 1983 employment in this broad sector was less than half that in manufacturing, but by the turn of the century employment— growing even faster than in financial services— had doubled, and matched total manufacturing employment.

Gindin, Sam; Panitch, Leo (2012-10-09). The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy Of American Empire (Kindle Locations 4196-4289). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.   

Recapping, the second is perhaps most understood and most complicated to explain.  What we have here is no just the decline or the rise of something but the decline and rise of the auto industry, as rust-belt "legacy" providers give way to "foreign," particularly Japanese, competitors who shortly Americanize themselves.

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