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23 things they don’t tell you about capitalism - Thing 9: We do not live in a post-industrial age - Chang (2010)

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  1. Introduction
  2. 23 things they don't tell you about capitalism
  3. We do not live in a post-industrial age
  4. Chang (2010)
  5. Conclusion

In this text, Chang tries to explain that the common idea of a post-industrial age in developed countries is not necessarily relevant today. Indeed, he shows that we still consume a lot of manufactured goods, although he does not deny the increasing demand for services. This article is well-written and easy to understand. However, in my opinion, it is sometimes a bit simplistic because the author wants to demonstrate a very precise argument. Thus, he does not explain very well why people generally think they live in a post-industrial age.

First, he states what economists tell us in a brief paragraph. The main idea is that services are becoming more important than manufacturing industry in rich countries which were the first industrialized. This switch from manufacturing goods to high-productive and knowledge-based services should be celebrated, according to economists. Chang does not agree and explains the limits of this expansion of the service sector. According to him, there is not a decrease of the number of manufactured goods produced but of their prices (because gains in productivity are still very high).

Hence, services become the (poor) engine of economic growth, in particular because these services are more difficult to export. Nowadays, China has become the ?workshop of the world', although the proportion of goods it produces is less important than in the UK in the 19th century. The British dominance was more significant but today, the share of manufactured goods is worth only 13 per cent of the GDP in this country. This process concerns most of developed countries such as Western countries or Northern America. However, people do not generally worry about this process which is considered as normal: manufacturing is seen as a ?low-grade activity' which should be made in developing countries.

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