Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk: Challenging the de-industrialization thesis

Many dependency theorists as well as economic historians have contended that nineteenth-century imperial policies and economic globalization deindustrialized the global ‘periphery’. European metropoles extracted raw materials and tropical commodities from their overseas territories, and in turn forced indigenous consumers to buy their industrial products, textiles in particular.

Organised by Development Economics

Thu 15 March 2018 12:30 to 13:30

Venue Leeuwenborch, gebouwnummer 201
Room C81

Gender and indigenous textile production in Java under Dutch colonial rule, ca. 1830-1920

This paper investigates three of the assumptions of Ricardian trade theory that are often behind the deindustrialization narrative. I argue that, at least for colonial Java’s textile industry, these assumptions should be reconsidered. Adverse trade policies imposed by the Dutch and a prolonged terms of trade boom in favour of primary commodities, make colonial Java a unique case to explore the merits of the deindustrialization thesis.

I demonstrate that Javanese households resourcefully responded to changing market circumstances, in the first place by flexibly allocating female labour. Moreover, indigenous textile producers specialized in certain niches catering local demand. Because of these factors, local textile production on Java appears to have been much more resilient than most of the historical literature suggests. These findings not only shed new light on the social and economic history of colonial Indonesia, but also contribute to the recent literature on alternative, labour-intensive, paths of industrialization in the non-Western world.