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Differentiating between growth regimes and the management of social reproduction - Discussion Paper Series - No. 3
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Discussion Paper Series - No. 3

Also available in French and in Spanish

Differentiating between growth regimes and the management of social reproduction


Pascal Byé

The facts and opinions expressed in this series are those of the authors and do not engage the responsibility of UNESCO.




Differentiating between growth regimes and the management of social reproduction

If the globalisation of the economic crisis has confirmed the extent of the interdependence of States, as had been highlighted previously by periods of growth, new forms of globalisation qualified as " postfordism " to eclucidate what appears as a major phenomenon in itself, i.e. the differentiation of growth regimes and social dynamics, were not sufficient.

It would be inadequate to describe these phenomena as simple economic or social dysfunctions centred around " circumstances beyond one's control " which would represent the progress or retreat of international economies. It would be simplistic to regard these differentiations as only the ability to use - or governments' inability to escape from - constraints arising from the globalisation of economies or the diffusion of political or cultural hegemonies. It would be equally illusory to believe - as shown by the impotence of the international community to resolve conflicts by declaring that they act in the general interest - that the consensual agreements states have adopted to manage the planet or resolve conflicts are operational because they have been decided, when in fact they disregard the realities of social diversity.

This reality, the product of long history and of repeated iterations between the global and the local, remains more or less recognised rather than explained by the social sciences. Hence the aim of this topic is to contribute to elucidating the foundations and the transformations of these social diversities so that they are mobilised for development policies and strategies.

In order to achieve this objective, we shall pay special attention to the observation and understanding of situations and times when this diversity is most clearly generated and expressed, by stressing the comparative and long-term method. In this way the emphasis will be placed on the painstaking description of the iterative and progressive phenomena which lead to the creation of new development paths.

Framework and objective of the analysis

Understanding the content and role of the specific.

Analysis of certain macro-phenomena regarded as inevitable - such as industrialisation or urbanisation; the depletion of renewable resources or the concentration of the productive apparatus - have for too long led to the belief that the specific would have meaning only as a product of the global. It is postulated on the contrary that the specific is also the product of the long history of particular societies which ahistoric or very short-term analysis tends to eclipse. Change would achieve its full force at a time when the effects of the global and the particular concur and not when they compete.

Although the economic and social differentiations seem easy to identify, they are however, much more difficult to interpret. Just as modern genetic instrumentation is capable of an increasing number of grafts and genetic modifications but less often capable of controlling the surrounding factors , the social sciences have demonstrated their ability to identify and describe particular situations - to the point of minimising the " extent of the repercussions of world processes on local and regional situations " - and at the same time have revealed the difficulty of incorporating this knowledge into the global models.

Making sciences of action from these sciences of observation means first stepping back so as not to be dazzled by the diversity but rather to understand its origin and meaning; it also means selecting certain particular fields of observation that constitute real social issues. Understanding the processes of industrialisation, comprehending the extent of States' autonomy or dependence with regard to their own development and highlighting the reasons for particular orientations in the management of natural resources and social production are three major issues that are either too globalised to be explained or too detailed to be used.

The social sciences - fully mobilised and undeterred in their ambitions - should be capable of participating in the strategic choices governing industrialisation policies, technological options or economic alternatives. They should make it possible, on a common experimental basis aimed at grasping their expressions in contemporary issues, to articulate a theorization of the singularity and concrete implementation of development policies. A prerequisite for such action is a comparative and multidisciplinary approach to analyse the times and situations where the realities of differentiation are expressed.

Choosing the time

It is put forward as an assumption that the differentiations in economic and social dynamics appear at three particular moments in the history of societies. Consequently, the following will be the preferred times proposed for observation:
  • the time of the differentiation of productive activities which marks an acceleration in the modification of forms of thought, cultural standards or organisations. Industrialisation for example, shows a real break in the speed of social change;
  • the time of the broadening of the relationships between local and global societies with the internationalisation of trade and the globalisation of social and cultural standards. This broadening appears to shatter the notion of specificity related to autarchy for the rehabilitation of concepts of interconnection and interdependence. Globalisation, the extreme expression of the loss of cultural identify, would appear to oppose rather than to combine localisation;
  • the time of redefinition of the links between man and nature with the expansion of urbanisation, of extractive industries, and the modernisation of agriculture. The dislocation of agrarian societies, built around the notion of reproduction or a balance between man and nature, the redefinition of models of foodstuff consumption; the dismemberment of rural areas and organisations are all significant illustrations of the threat to the concept of sustainability.

Analysing the iterative processes linking the global to the local

On the basis of observations made on these segments of the history of societies, an attempt will be made to show how the differentiations found in states or regions modify the evolution of the three great movements of industrialisation, internationalisation and sustainability. The description and understanidng of the iterative processes linking the global to the local, the macro to the micro and long-term history to immediate issues could be applied when considering the following situations:
  • the combination or succession of productive activities in the local or regional industrialisation processes. This theme goes back to an old debate which, in the theories of development, confronts the inevitability of a step-by-step vision with that of the observed diversity of industrialisation processes (see 'The diversity of industrialisation processes').
  • the induced effects of the globalisation of the economic crisis. This topic can point up the differentiations that appear in matters of autonomy (resisting the effects of the crisis or even making use of the it) or of dependence (the conditions governing the transmission of the effects of the crisis from the centre to the periphery (see 'Resistance to the effects of the world-wide economic crisis') of States with regard to the major economic shocks or warlike conflicts;
  • the break down of relations between man and nature and the available options for the management of renewable resources and the environment. It illustrates the variety and limitations of conservation practices and, even more, the contradictions between the growth regimes and the often expressed desire to establish sustainable growth models (see 'From the management of renewable resources to the idea of a sustainable economy').
Each of these themes is the subject of scientific discussion. The programme would contribute to their sustenance and renewal. More particularly, these themes are the basis of contemporary choices in development policy: the choice of priorities in productive activities, the choice of technological options concerning energy or the management of renewable resources, the choice of agreements and international alliances in economic policy.

Table of contents

Research themes for further consideration

The diversity of industrialisation processes

The differences observed at the local level in the combinations of productive activities immediately throw into question the step-by-step approaches and the normative views of development stemming from a globalising and normative view of industrialisation. As a result of the work done by MOST, it will be a question of moving on from a simple recording of these differences to their long-term significance, to determine from the scientific standpoint, in particular, how statements about globalisation or internationalisation relate to those which, on the contrary, stress specificity.

A quick interpretation of these contrasting realities could lead one to say that the second movement, at a more localised level, is only an image, transferred in time, of the first movement. Just as cold generates heat or the strong swell between two waves gives an impression of calm, growth regimes would diversify but remain closely linked. Differentiations in industrialisation matters would then be no more than the product of the same phenomenon noted at different times in history. In terms of industrialisation, the choice would come down to estimating the moment in history of the long-term transformation of the productive systems where the country was localised.

The countries which first experienced industrial growth should get their second wind as they discover the resilience of a post-industrial society and a new international division of labour. The countries which came latest to the growth race would follow the same path with a few years or even a few centuries delay: destroying their agriculture to build their industry (or the first to accept industrial delocalisation), and rationalising their industry to enter the service society. International trade could be utilised to slow down the overall process or to skip stages but there would be a degree of inevitability in the movement as a whole, an inevitability which the theories of Rostov represent most completely.

In this approach, history is used to determine the distance travelled or to be travelled on the time scale, to measure the difference between countries. The formulas to follow are easy to imagine. Given that there is a single path for all to travel, which coach should be put on the rails to cover the maximum distance in the minimum time? A simplistic view, of course, on which it might be useful to collect material for reviewing industrialisation strategies. Recourse to long-term observation should serve to identify the basic variables which, as time goes by, persist and mark the development process.

The long history of industrial dynamics

A comparison between newly industrialised countries (NIC) and least developed countries (LDC), focused, for example, on the long-term analysis of the relationshp between agriculture and industry, would show that there is not only one, and hence normative, path for the change from traditional to modern societies, but an infinite path, whose specific configurations, as well as its permanent aspects and evolution should be assessed. Evaluating for example the role played by agriculture in creating and reinforcing industry, the role it played during its retreat in the financing or creation of industrial employment, its contribution to overseas trade and, finally, its role in creating political powers or ideologies are all possible ways of analysing the on-going changes in the history of this inter-sectorial relationship.

The demography of small and medium-sized enterprises

The part played by small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in the production of goods and services has remained significant despite emphasis being placed, during the years of rising economic growth, on the move towards concentration and monopoly in the major industrial and financial groups. This role has never been acknowledged more than during the periods of stagnation or economic crisis. Today, the SMEs are credited with being highly adaptable to this situation, with their size and organisation being held up as the industrial model to be followed. However, drawing attention to the particular ways in which they operate, their geographical and sectoral location, their demography, origins and enterprise culture does not fully explain the ways in which they persist and reproduce or, in a word, their role in development.

In addition, although their place in social dynamics is now recognised, their presence is still often regarded as being less an expression of the specific dynamics of societies in flux or as the illustration of 'another path to growth' - according to Hernando de Soto - than a simple step on the way towards concentration in industry, commerce and banking. Put another way, many observers see the concentration of productive acitivities as inevitable, with other forms of organisation merely preceding or following it.

An analysis of the part played by SMEs at different stages of the industrialisation process would throw light on the foundations and relationships that unite these forms of organisation to the special mechanisms of local growth.

Breakdown of productive systems and uniformisation of finance and information systems

The role of capital on the one hand, and of information systems on the other, are held up as the reasons for the worsening of economic problems or, on the contrary, their resolution. A worsening is seen when the extreme volatility of capital hinders the deliberate development policies based upon heavy investment or when the centralisation of information compromises the implementation of local policies. Financial systems and information systems can also contribute to the decentralisation of decision-making and to the flexibility of the production apparatus. It would be appropriate to gather data in these fields to make a statement about these contrasting issues.

Does the mobility of capital and information simply oppose the inertia of productive investment by enhancing only the power of those who managed the former to the detriment of those who implement the latter? Are they merely the new vehicles of the cultural and political hegemony, or are they based upon new forms of societal organisation? Do they simply lead to greater concentration and uniformity, or are they, on the contrary, the essential tools of decentralised development? Finally, can they be designed in a different way in order to satisfy objectives different from those of globalisation?

Analysis of the international dissemination of computerised management systems or of the consequences of structural adjustment policies could be applied; conversely, so could analysis of the failures of these uniforming systems in particular multi-cultural situations; the informal economy or where there is a strong political will for self-contained development.

Resistance to the effects of the world-wide economic crisis

Alternative models of production, solidarity; innovation and management were initially regarded as mere reactions of resistance or temporary adaptation to the constraints arising from the adoption of the predominant technical and economic models. They have nevertheless not been slow to appear:
  • either as models of organisation overshadowed by the models of industrialisation that were successful in the years afer the war;
  • or as models which, thanks to the economic crisis, are the precursors of the post-industrial societies.
In the countries of the South, they confirm the importance of the non-commercial aspects of social relationships. In the economies of the North, they highlight the retreat of structuring values such as work - as early as 1970 Yves Barel spoke of the devaluation of this 'great organiser' in Western societies - or the ideologies of progress or material enrichment. On the other hand they point out the importance of these forms of organisation in the vitality of certain urban and rural societies and in the adaptation of certain productive activities to immediate requirements and to uncertainty.

There is absolutely no doubt that a far-reaching and comparative analysis of these social models is the way in which the models of interpreting global dynamics can be renewed by enriching them with observations on diversity; it is also the way in which the capability of local and sectoral policies to integrate these new ways to growth can be questioned. As an example, one might concentrate on development and on the meaning of the following phenomena.

The growth of the informal economy

The informal economy is an integral part of development and has re-emerged in the economic crisis: it is one of the essential variables in the societies of the South where it is associated with the non-money economy and not only with the 'economies of poverty'. It has more lately been recognised as an important component in the redeployment of the economies of the North affected by unemployment, industrial delocation and government rigidity. As an element of survival for many people, and for others a simple factor for adjustment and flexibility faced with particular constraints, the informal economy appears as a social laboratory in which new forms of living, working, solidarity and trade are worked out. On both counts, it justifies the interest it is increasingly receiving from researchers in the social sciences. Comparing the observations made at different times in the history of rural, industrial and urban societies would enable progress to be made in their functioning and prospects.

Endogenous adjustments to outside constraints

The suddenness of structural adjustment measures like those related to the breakdown of traditional societies or conflicts have had severe effects on many countries of the South.

More progressive owing to being partially tempered by social regulation policies, the social shocks resulting first from bankruptcies, redundancies and industrial delocations and secondly, from the growing marginalisation of entire sections of urban populations, have also affected these countries in the same way as their most advanced neighbours. The globalisation of economies, by enhancing competition, accelerating the destruction of national value systems, and encouraging the migration of people and ideas, has accentuated the negative effects stemming from localised crises. Some point to these events as the forerunners of serious social disaster threatening the very organisation of democratic societies: social explosion in the suburbs, revolt of the unemployed, collapse of social regimes, destabilisation of the financial systems of the Western democracies, worsening of malnutrition, development of organised crime, ethnic tensions and violence of all kinds resulting in a greater number of insecure areas.

But, as the destructuring effects of instability and growing uncertainty become more marked around the world, there seems to be a wide variety of new behaviour patterns and adjustments taking place and acting as 'social shock absorbers' with respect to the events listed above. Although often neglected in global analyses, these new developments are undoubtedly at the root of the economies affected by the economic crisis. They could also constitute the precursors of new organisations. Three of them deserve further analysis:

  • the behaviour of consumers in circumstances of great monetary or financial instability; the behaviour of investors in periods of considerable financial speculation; behaviour with regard to over-indebtedness; behaviour as regards savings;
  • the introduction of new forms of solidarity between individuals, often taking place in a non-commercial sphere: the trading and sale of know-how, the redeployment of family loyalties, new moves in relations between town and country, collective fund-raising for financing projects;
  • the adaptation of leading techniques to local and sectoral specificities: new forms of learning, the grafting of traditional methods on new techniques, a turning away from the existing uses and products of technology; the rejection of techniques unsuitable to local contexts.

Ethnic and cultural specificities and economic performance

In recent years the standard type of economic analysis has tended to base the performance of economies and producers too much on a range of relatively simple variables: factor productivity, access to markets or strategic factors, the structures of production and innovation - particularly as it has sought to formalise these comparative advantages by introducing quantification or modelling. By re-introducing the part played by the institutions, the regulatory economists have considerably enriched these approaches but without managing to integrate the role played by the ethnic and cultural variables in economic performance.

The objective of this part could be initially to gather the necessary materials for a detailed treatment of the relations existing between economic development and ethnic and cultural specificities. The time already seems ripe to depart from routine economics in order to evaluate the contribution of:

  • instances of ethnic solidarity. These appear already to have facilitated the circulation of goods and services and the funding of industrial and commercial operations. A good illustration is the part played by expatriate Chinese in the export successes of small and medium-sized industrial enterprises in South-East Asia and that of the Yorubas and Haussa tradesmen in border trade in West Africa;
  • the capabilities of cultural syncretisms. These would appear to be an important factor in the assimilation of outside cultures, and in the transfers and adaptations of existing techniques to local contexts;
  • religious ideologies, beliefs and practices. Open in varying degrees to modernity and business, they play a substantial role in technological change and in the restructuring of productive activities.

From the management of renewable resources to the idea of a sustainable economy

Production and transmission of conservation practices

The increasing artificiality of agricultural and food production techniques and, more generally, the rationalisation of the techniques of exploiting natural resources, have, through their undoubted efficiency, concealed the fact that their performance was based partly upon their not ensuring the reproduction of nature's capital that they were using in order to function.

The rehabilitation of conservation techniques such as organic farming, improved management of natural resources, for example through recycling, or the new energy-saving or less-polluting technologies are a reaction of modernity to the changes in industrial societies. These reactions often merely restore the productive practices inherited from tradition or autarchy. These practices could be qualified as conservative without suggesting that they do not evolve. There are many examples in all the practices of abstracting from the environment: the management of woodlands, fishing and hunting preserves, cropping schedules and the management of water and land. These practices all have in common the concern for reproduction and attempt to reconcile abstraction and restitution through usage or social rules. However, they are not static, and this is demonstrated by the selection of animal or plant varieties, the modification of cropping practices, the extension of cultivated land and irrigated areas. One of the valuable aspects of the analysis that could be based on the many inventories made in these different areas would be to show under which influences and in what conditions these conservation techniques change with time. How are they handed on from generation to generation? What are their boundaries and their situations today in the range of available techniques? Perhaps finally they can be 'reactivated' in the context of new sets of techniques that respect nature and the environment.

The permanence of consumption models

After stressing the undeniable progress of a world consumption model based upon the uniformisation and standardisation of industrial products, most operators, faced today with growing international competition, finally emphasise the opposite - probably in order to justify market niche or market differentiation policies or even to benefit from specific protection - the importance of specificities in consumer behaviour. The diversification of consumption models would not only be a long-term development but would reflect, as we have already pointed out, the many ways in which consumers adapt to the conditions of life and work in which they find themselves.

Stress should perhaps be placed on the relative permanence and inertia of consumption models rather than on the changes related to urbanisation and monetarisation in particular on which a great deal of research has been done. The objective of so doing would be twofold: first of all these behaviour patterns are rehabilitated or reinvented when a number of countries experience situations of crisis or economic difficulty. As persistent behaviour patterns, they may even sometimes appear as an extreme expression of modernity. Secondly, precise knowledge of these behaviour patterns is a great asset for redefining alternative policies for obtaining essential goods or services; finally for the economic operators in the private sector, they are a way of diversifying their commercial or industrial strategies.

One might attempt for example to evaluate the permanence of traditional foodstuff consumption habits and models in order better to reconcile the objectives of global policies - agricultural policy, agro-food product import policies or food security policies - with the requirements induced by population growth or the increase in urban incomes. More generally, and in the same line of thinking one might - while remaining vigilant about the regional, historical and cultural specificities - try to identify the variables which underlie these relative inertias in the behaviour of consumers.

Environmental standards and industrial redeployment

Decreed in principle to reduce the harmful effects of the uncontrolled exploitation of the geosphere and the biosphere, environmental standards and rules are not merely an attempt to block the technological and industrial options hitherto adopted. They are also credited with a certain capacity for redefining the conditions of growth and contributing to the redeployment of productive activities, and finally with playing an important role in the conditions governing international competition.

For example, the criteria adopted for defining the quality of foodstuffs play an undoubted role in the emergence of certain processes at the expense of others regarded as dangerous for human health; they contribute to redirecting manufacturing processes to safer and more healthy foodstuffs but are also invoked to reinforce monopolist strategies and protectionist regimes. In the same way one can refer to measures aimed at ensuring that what was hitherto regarded as the common good of humanity - pure air, pure water and the diversity of genetic species - should be paid for at their true price. In industry, the growing need for recycling or destroying wastes is in line with new constraints but also opens the way to new areas of diversification.

Apart from specific cases, it would be useful - on the basis of new inventories and typologies - to further analyse the differentiations in development induced by these rules and regulations.

Table of contents


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About the author

Pascal Byé is Research Director at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique- Station d'Economie et de Sociologie Rurales. He has worked for several years on the analysis of technological change as a result of modifying relations between agriculture and industry. Pascal Byé focuses on comparative approaches toward the processes of differentiation between growth regimes.

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