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New Left Review I/132, March-April 1982

Alain Lipietz

Towards Global Fordism?

Is the ‘industrialization of the Third World’ the spectre which now haunts old Europe? Certainly in the apologetic discourse of governments, as well as in the obsessional thinking of trade-union leaders, the resulting ‘unfair competition’ is at the root of the jobs crisis in the old industries. But there is also a quite different point of view. For the dynamic managers of multinational or export-oriented corporations, for philanthropic economists and various Third World leaders, the industrial development of the periphery brings a more equal balance to North–South relations, both offering a way out of the crisis and heralding the end of unequal development. Beyond such unwarranted outbursts of praise or indignation, we must adopt a critical approach to the concept of Third World industrialization through a new international division of labour. It cannot even be accepted, for example, that ‘the Third World’ or ‘the periphery’ actually designates a unitary reality. For while national per capita income varies from 1 to 3 in the oecd ‘centre’, the corresponding spread is 1 to 27 in the rest of the world outside the eastern bloc. Moreover, the crisis in the centre has so dramatically sharpened differences among peripheral countries that it seems questionable to bracket together Kuwait, Mali and Brazil.

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