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Appropriate or Underdeveloped Technology? Arghiri Emmanuel

Appropriate or Underdeveloped Technology?

Arghiri Emmanuel

Published September 29th 1982
ISBN : 9780471104674
186 pages
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 About the Book 

(Greek: Αργύρης Εμμανουήλ) was a Greek-French Marxian economist who became known in the 1960s and 1970s for his theory of unequal exchange. The theory was an attempt to explain the falling trend in the terms of trade for underdeveloped countries, while criticising the different approaches of Raúl Prebisch, Hans Singer, and Arthur Lewis to do so as only half-hearted attempts. It stated, contrary to the then conventional Heckscher-Ohlin-Samuelson theory, that it was politically and historically set wage-levels that determined relative prices, not the other way around, and, contrary to the assumptions of Ricardos comparative costs, that capital was internationally mobile and the rate of profit correspondingly equalised. What made the theory a heated subject in Marxist and dependendista circles was the theorys implications about international worker solidarity. Emmanuel was not late to point out that his theory fitted well with the observed absence of such solidarity, particularly between high- and low-wage countries, and, in fact, made the nationally enclosed workers movements into the principal cause of unequal exchange. By contrast, all subsequent versions of the theory such as those by Samir Amin, Oscar Braun, Jan Otto Andersson, Paul Antoine Delarue, and almost every critic since Charles Bettelheim, have preferred to make higher productivity the cause (and thereby justification) of higher wages, and monopolies the cause of unequal exchange.Emmanuels theory of unequal exchange was part of a more comprehensive explanation of the post-war capitalist economy. In Emmanuels view, because selling had to take place without the income generated by the sale itself, there was a permanent excess of (the value of) goods over (the purchasing power of) income in the normal workings of a market economy. This obliged the economy to function below its full potential and made it prone to crises such as the one he had himself experienced during the Great Depression. By contrast, the boom of the thirty glorious post-war years indicated that this normal functioning had somehow been evaded, and Emmanuel now offered the institutionalised rise in wages, plus a policy of permanent inflation, as the principal stimulant directing the boom in investments. Since neither the wage- nor the consumption levels of the well-off countries could be internationally equalised - upwards for both ecological reasons and because it would eat up all profits, and downwards for political reasons in the same rich countries - unequal exchange was the necessary consequence, in a sense saving the capitalist economy from itself.