Critiques of World-Systems Analysis and Alternatives: Unequal Exchange and Three Forms of Class and Struggle in the Japan–US Silk Network, 1880–1890

  • Elson E. Boles Saginaw Valley State University

Abstract

Sympathetic critics of world-system analysis contend that its systemic level of abstraction results in one-sided generalizations of systemic change. Unequal exchange theory and commodity chain analysis similarly reduce distinct and historical forms of labor and their interrelationships to common functional and ahistorical essences. This paper applies an incorporated comparisons method to give historical content to an understanding of unequal exchange and global inequality through a study of the JapanUS silk networks formation and change during the mid 18801890s. Analysis of unequal exchange processes requires, in this case, an examination of the mutual integration and transformation of distinct labor and value forms peasant sericulture, ?lature wage-labor, and industrial silk factory wage-laborand the infundibular market forces they structured. These relations were decisively conditioned by new landlordism and debt-peonage, class-patriarchy, state mediations, migration, and by peasant and worker struggles against deteriorating conditions. Indeed, the transitional nature of the silk networks formation, which concluded the Tokugawa system and decisively contributed to Japans emergence as a nation-state of the capitalist world-economy, was signi?ed by the very last millenarian and quasi-modern peasant uprising in 1884 among indebted sericulturists, the very ?rst recorded factory strikes in 188586, by women raw silk reelers in K?fu, and by strikes among unionizing workers in patriarchal and mechanized silk factories in Paterson, New Jersey, 188586 (Boles 1996, 1998). The local conditions of each con?ict were molded by the interdependence of those conditions that constituted a formative part of the world-system and its development. In the face of struggles and intensifying world-market competition, Japanese and US manufacturers took opposite spatial strategies of regional expansion to overcome the structural constraints of existing labor forms and relations. Analysis of the silk network permits the interconnections among seemingly disparate events and forms of collective protest within historical networks to be understood, revealing the world-historical dimensions of local developments and, conversely, the local faces of global inequality.
Published
2002-08-26
How to Cite
Boles, E. E. (2002). Critiques of World-Systems Analysis and Alternatives: Unequal Exchange and Three Forms of Class and Struggle in the Japan–US Silk Network, 1880–1890. Journal of World-Systems Research, 8(2), 150-212. https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2002.272
Section
Global Inequality Part II