Beyond state and market: the role of labor regimes and class dynamics in the East Asian miracle




labor regimes, class compromise, growth and distribution, East Asian economies


While conventional wisdom focuses on the roles of the state and the market in achieving high growth in East Asian countries, this paper offers an account focused on class dynamics. First, the paper connects post-World War II class dynamics in Japan and South Korea to the distributional outcome, i.e., the gap between labor productivity growth and real wage growth. Statistical evidence and econometric tests suggest a positive relationship between a balance of power in favor of workers and a higher growth rate in output. Secondly, the paper puts forward a labor regime framework for explaining the connection between the class dynamics and the distributional outcome, and finds it to have played a central role by using historical data and an autoregressive distributed lag (ADL) model. We further analyze China’s economic growth and conclude by stressing the importance of class dynamics for better understanding growth and distribution in capitalist development.




Download data is not yet available.


Aglietta, Michel. 1979. A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: The U.S. Experience. London: Verso.

Amsden, Alice. 1990. ‘South Korea’s Record Wage Rates: Labor in Late Industrialization’, Industrial Relations, 29 (1): 77-93.

Amsden, Alice. 1992. Asia’s Next Giant: South Korea and Late Industrialization. Oxford University Press.

Amsden, Alice. 2001. The Rise of the Rest: Challenges to the West from Late-industrializing Economies. Oxford University Press.

Arr igh i, Giovanni, Takeshi Hamashita, and Mark Selden, eds. 2003. The Resurgence of East Asia: 500, 150 and 50 year perspectives. New York: Routledge.

Aspalter, Christian. 2001. Conservative welfare state systems in east Asia. Greenwood: Praeger.

Balassa, Bela A., and John Williamson. 1987. Adjusting to Success: Balance of Payments Policy in the East Asian NICS. Washington DC: Institute for International Economics.

Block, Fred, and Gene A. Burns. 1986. ‘Productivity As a Social Problem: The Uses and Misuses of Social Indicators’, American Sociology Review, 51 (6): 767-780.

Bowles, Samuel, and Herbert Gintis. 1990. ‘Contested Exchange: New Microfoundations for the Political Economy of Capitalism’, Politics & Society, 18 (2): 165-222.

Bowles, Samuel, David Gordon, and Thomas E. Weisskopf. 1986. ‘Power and Profits: The Social Structure of Accumulation and Profitability of the Postwar U.S. Economy’, Review of Radical Political Economics, 18 (1&2): 132-167.

Boyer, Robert. 1987. ‘Technical Change and the Theory of ‘Regulation’. Paris: CEPREMAP, No. 8707. March.

Boyer, Robert, Hiroyasu Uemura, and Akinori Isogai, eds. 2011. Diversity and Transformation of Asian Capitalisms. Routledge.

Burawoy, Michael. 1983. ‘Between the Labor Process and the State : The Changing Face of Factory Regimes Under Advanced Capitalism’, American Sociological Review, 48 (5): 587-605.

Burawoy, Michael. 1985. The Politics of Production. London: Verso.

Burawoy, Michael, and Erik Olin Wrigh t. 1990. ‘Coercion and consent in contested exchange’, Politics & Society, 18 (2): 251-266.

Chan, Anita, and Jonathan Unger. 1995. ‘China, Corporatism, and the East Asian Model’, The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, 33: 29-53.

Chan, Chris King-Chi, and Elaine Sio-Ieng Hui. 2016. ‘Bringing Class Struggles Back: A Marxian Analysis of the State and Class Relations in China’, Globalizations, 14 (2): 232-244.

China National Bureau of Statistics. China Statistics Yearbooks.

Choi, Young Jun. 2012. ‘End of the Era of Productivist Welfare Capitalism? Diverging Welfare Regimes in East Asia’, Asian Journal of Social Science, 40 (3): 275-294.

Deyo, Frederic C. 2012. Reforming Asian Labor Systems: Economic Tensions and Worker Dissent. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Fishlow, Albert, Gatherine Gwin, Dani Rodrik, and Stephan Hagg ard. 1996. Miracle or Design? Lessons from the East Asian Experience. Overseas Development Council.

Friedman, Eli, and Ching Kwan Lee. 2010. ‘Remaking the world of chinese labour: A 30-year retrospective’, British Journal of Industrial Relations, 48 (3): 507-533.

Go, Sun, and Ki-Joo Park. 2009. ‘Universal Public Schooling in Colonial Korea and Taiwan’. In Globalization and the Rise of Mass Education, edited by D. Mitch and G. Cappelli, pp. 101-127. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Goodman, R., G. White, G., and H. Kwon. 1998. The East Asian Welfare Model. New York: Routledge.

Gordon, David, Richard Edwards, and Michael Reich . 1982. Segmented Work, Divided Workers: the Historical transformation of Labor in the United States. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Haggard, Stephan, and Robert R. Kaufman. 2008. Development, Democracy, and Welfare States. Princeton University Press.

Hamilton, Clive. 1983. ‘Capitalist industrialization in East Asia’s Four little tigers’, Journal of Contemporary Asia, 13 (1): 35-73.

Harada, Yuji, and Hironori Tohyama. 2011. ‘Asian Capitalism: Insitutional configurations and firm heterogeneity’. In Diversity and Transformations of Asian Capitalism, edited by R. Boyer, H. Uemura and A. Isogai, pp. 243-263. Routledge.

Hart-Landsberg, Martin, and Paul Burkett. 1998. ‘Contradictions of Capitalist Industrialization in East Asia: A Critique of “Flying Geese” Theories of Development’, Economic Geography, 74 (2): 87–110.

Hart-Landsberg , Martin, Seongjin Jeong, and Westra Rich ard. 2007. Marxist Perspectives on South Korea in the Global Economy. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Holliday, Ian. 2000. ‘Productivist welfare capitalism: Social policy in East Asia’, Political Studies, 48 (4): 706-723.

Hung, Ho-Fung. 2009. ‘America’s Head Servant? The PRC’s Dilemma in the Global Crisis’, New Left Review, 60 (Nov): 5-25.

Hung, Ho-Fung. 2013. ‘Labor Politics under Three Stages of Chinese Capitalism’, South Atlantic Quarterly, 112 (1): 203-212.

Ito, Takatoshi, and Kyoungsik Kang. 1989. ‘Bonuses, Overtime, and Employment: Korea vs. Japan’, Journal of the Japanes and International Economies, 3(4): 424-450.

Itoh, Makoto. 1990. The World Economic Crisis and Japanese Capitalism. Macmillan. Itoh, Makoto. 2000. The Japanese Economy reconsidered. Palgrave.

Japan Statistic Bureau. N. d. Japan Statistics YearBooks.

Johnson, Chalmers. 1982. MITI and the Japanese Miracle: the Growth of Industrial Policy. Standford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Johnson, Chalmers. 1995. Japan, Who Governs?: the Rise of the Developmental State. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Koo, Hagen. 2001. Korean Workers: the Culture and Politics of Class Formation. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Kotz, David M. 1990. ‘A comparative analysis of the theory of regulation and the social structure of accumulation theory’, Science & Society, 54 (1): 5-28.

Kotz, David M, Terrence McDonough , and Michael Reich . 1994. Social Structures of Accumulation: The Political Economy of Growth and Crisis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kotz, David M., Terrence McDonough , and Cian McMahon. 2019. ‘Reading Capital in the Twenty-First Century: Thomas Piketty and Political Economy’, Revue de la régulation.

Krueger, Anne O. 1990. ‘Asian Trade and Growth Lessons’, American Economic Review, 80 (2): 108-112.

Lau, Lawrence. J., Ying Yi Qian, and Gerard Roland. 2000. ‘Reform without Losers : An Interpretation of China’s Dual‐Track Approach to Transition’, Journal of Political Economy, 108 (1), 120-143.

Lavoie, Marc, and Engelbert Stockhammer, eds. 2013. Wage-led Growth: An equitable strategy for economic recovery. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Lazonick, William. 1995. ‘Cooperative Employment Relations and Japanese Economic Growth’. In Capital, the State and Labour: a Global Perspective, edited by Juliet Schor and Jong-ll You, pp. 70-110. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

Lee, Changgeun. 2012. ‘Challenges for Minimum Wage Campaign in South Korea’, Global Labour Column, May (96).

Lee, Ching Kwan. 2012. ‘Durable Subordination: Chinese Labour Regime through a South Korean Lens’. In East Asian Capitalism: Diversity, Continuity and Change, edited by Andrew Walter and Xiaoke Zhang, pp. 110-131. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Li, Zhongjin, and Hao Qi. 2014. ‘Labor Process and the Social Structure of Accumulation in China’, Review of Radical Political Economics, 46 (4): 481-488.

Lipietz, Alain. 1986. ‘Behind the Crisis: The Exhaustion of a Regime of Accumulation. A “Regulation School” Perspective on Some French Empirical Works’, Review of Radical Political Economics, 18 (1&2): 13-32.

Mari, Sako, and Masahiro Kotosaka. 2012. ‘Continuity and Change in the Japanese Economy: Evidence of Institutional Interaction between Financial and Labour Market’. In East Asian Capitalism: Diversity, Continuity and Change, edited by Andrew Walter and Xiaoke Zhang, pp. 132-156. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Marx, Karl. 1867. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume I. New York (1967):- International Publishers.

McDonough , Terrence, Michael Reich , and David, M. Kotz, eds. 2010. Contemporary Capitalism and its Crises: Social Structure of Accumulation Theory for the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Miyamoto, Hiroaki. 2016. ‘Reforming Japan’s dual labour market’. Working Paper, East Asian Forum. Online, accessed on 3 Feb. 2017.

Moore, Joe. 1985. ‘Production Control: Workers’ control in early postwar Japan’, Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, 17:4, 2-26.

Moore, Joe. 1997. The Other Japan: Conflict, Compromise, and Resistance Since 1945. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.

Narayan, Paresh Kumar. 2005. ‘The saving and investment nexus for China: evidence from cointegration tests’, Applied Economics, 37 (17): 1979-1990.

Naughton, Barry. 2006. The Chinese Economy: Transitions and Growth. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Pesaran, M. Hashem, Yongcheol Shin, and Richard J. Smith. 2001. ‘Bounds testing approaches to the analysis of long run relationships’, Journal of Applied Econometrics, 16 (3): 289-326.

Piovani, Chiara. 2014. ‘Class Power and China’s Productivity Miracle Applying the Labor Extraction Model to China’s Industrial Sector, 1980-2007’, Review of Radical Political Economics, 46 (3): 331-354.

Qi, Hao. 2015. ‘The Labor Share Question in China’. PhD Thesis. Amherst: University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Rawski, Thomas G. 1994. ‘Chinese industrial reform: accomplishments, prospects, and implications’, American Economic Review, 84 (2): 271-275.

Song, Hae-Yung. 2019. ‘From Getting the Development Question Wrong to Bringing Emancipation Back In: Re-reading Alice Amsden’, Development and Change, 50 (6): 1554-1578.

Song, Jiyeoun. 2008. ‘Global Forces, Local Adjustments: The Politics of Labor’. PhD Thesis. Cambridge: Harvard University.

Song, Jiyeoun. 2012. ‘Economic Distress, Labor Market Reforms, and Dualism in Japan and Korea’, Governance, 25 (3): 415-438.

South Korea Statistical Information Service. N.d. South Korea Statistical Database.

Stiglitz, Joseph E. 1996. ‘Some Lessons from the East Asian Miracle’, The World Bank Research Observer, 11 (2): 151-178.

Storm, Servaas, and C.W.M. Naastepad. 2005. ‘Strategic Factors in Economic Development : East Asian Industrialization 1950–2003’, Development and Change, 36 (6): 1059-1094.

Sugimoto, Yoshio. 1978. ‘Quantitative Characteristics of Popular Disturbances in Post-Occupation Japan 1952-1960’, The Journal of Asian Studies, 37 (2): 273-291.

World Bank. 1993. The East Asian Miracle: Economic Growth and Public Policy. New York: Oxford University Press.

World Bank. World Development Indicator. Data acquired online on 20 January 2018.

Wade, Robert. 1990. Governing the Market: Economic Theory and the Role of Government in East Asian industrialization. Princeton, NY: Princeton University Press.

Walter, Andrew, and Xiaoke Zhang. 2012. East Asian Capitalism: Diversity, Continuity, and Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wrigh t, Erik Olin. 2000. ‘Working-class power, capitalist-class interests, and class compromise’, American Journal of Sociology: 105 (4): 957-1002.

Wrigh t, Gavin. 2006. ‘Productivity growth and the American labor market: the 1990s in historical perspective’. In The Global Economy in the 1990s: A Long-Run Perspective, edited by Paul W. Rhode and Gianni Toniolo, pp. 139-160. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

You, Jong-ll. 1995. ‘Changing Capital-Labour Relations in South Korea’. In Capital, the State and Labour, A Global Perspective, edited by Juliet Schor and Jong-ll You, pp. 111-151. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

You, Jong-ll. 1998. ‘Income distribution and growth in East Asia’, Journal of Development Studies, 34 (6): 37-65.

Zhu, Andong, and David M. Kotz. 2011. ‘The Dependence of China’s Economic Growth on Exports and Investment’, Review of Radical Political Economics, 43 (1): 9-32.

Ziai, Aram. 2019. ‘Towards a More Critical Theory of Development in the 21st Century’, Development and Change, 50 (2): 458-467.




How to Cite

Li, Zhongjin. 2023. “Beyond State and Market: The Role of Labor Regimes and Class Dynamics in the East Asian Miracle”. Revista De Historia Industrial — Industrial History Review 32 (89):143-72.