International Society for Quantitative History

QH Webinar Series

Involution or Industrialization: Reinterpreting the 19-20th Century Chinese Agriculture through the Perspectives of Seasonality

09:45 | Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Zoom Webinar

English

Debin Ma

Debin Ma

Professor of Economics, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University

Permanent agriculture in China, Korea and Japan (1900), Internet Archive Book Images, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

Chinese agriculture remains central to our understanding of China’s long-term Chinese economic growth trajectory and the Great Divergence debate. In this Quantitative History Webinar, Debin Ma of Hitotsubashi University revisits the debates of “involution” in the context of incorporating agriculture seasonality. China’s (or East Asian) highly crop-based agricultural economy generates sharply differentiated seasonable demand for agricultural labor across the year and leads to the rise of agricultural and handicraft side-employment and household production. Without taking proper account of this important intertemporal labor re-allocation mechanism, the “involution” thesis often posits a Malthusian diminishing return in Chinese agriculture due to deteriorating land-labor ratio. Debin Ma and his co-author use empirical evidence from 19-20th century Chinese (and Japanese) agriculture to demonstrate that this labor relocation across seasons contributes to a Boserupian type of growth with rising commercialization and population density, but not necessarily urbanization, rising productivity and structural change. However, they argue that ultimately it was industrialization and the opening-up of markets, developments that occurred outside agriculture that pulled China (or Japan) out of the “involutionary” path and took China onto a path of modern economic growth.

Debin's co-author: Kaixiang Peng (Henan University)

With discussants: Kenneth Pomeranz, FBA (Chicago) and Osamu Saito (Hitotsubashi)

This webinar is a joint event with Economic Research Seminar Series hosted by the Institute of Economic Research of Hitotsubashi University.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Zoom Webinar

Debin Ma

English

The Quantitative History Webinar Series aims to provide researchers, teachers, and students with an online intellectual platform to keep up to date with the latest research in the field, promoting the dissemination of research findings and interdisciplinary use of quantitative methods in historical research. The Series, now in its third year, is co-organized by the International Society for Quantitative History, HKU Business School, and Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences. 量化歷史網上講座系列由香港大學陳志武和馬馳騁教授聯合發起,旨在介紹前沿量化歷史研究成果、促進同仁交流,推廣量化方法在歷史研究中的應用。本系列講座由國際量化歷史學會、香港大學經管學院和香港人文社會研究所全力支持和承辦。

Conveners: Professor Zhiwu Chen & Dr. Chicheng Ma (HKU Business School)

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