This paper attempts to put the present mutation of the world economy in historical perspective. It uses a meso-analytical framework to examine the economic transformation we are experiencing. The main force at work, it is claimed, is a progressive dematerialization of economic activity which has triggered a reorganization of the world economy as instituted process. The extent to which a new international industrial order is in the making is examined together with the forces at work to transform the present conflictive equilibrium situation into a situation of creative disequilibrium.
This paper explores the changing nature of contemporary capital accumulation focusing in particular on the increasing importance of knowledge inputs in the production process. The growing knowledge-intensity of production reflected in the role of design, research and development, marketing, management and advertising in the growth strategy of the firm, has had numerous consequences for the nature of competition amongst firms and for the internationalization of production. As increased knowledge-intensity of production gave rise to ever more rapid technological change in industry, the need for greater flexibility in production and labour processes became acute, more so as the global economic crisis deepened and competition from newly industrializing countries rose.
Automation and sub-contracting were important new strategies. So too was the segmentation and delocalization of production processes to cheap labour countries in the Third World and Eastern Europe. More recently, as the costs and risks involved in R&D escalated, large corporations have also begun to decentralize knowledge production itself by funding research and development activities outside the MNC, and by internationalizing knowledge production itself through the establishment of research laboratories abroad or the implementation of a System of world product mandates for selected manufacturing subsidiaries.
After showing the dynamic character of the world market of telecommunications equipment, the authors analyze the main factors which have contributed to the elaboration of the industrial structure in this field. Particular stress is laid on the role played by technological evolution as driving force of the industrial reorganization which is taking place right now in the field. This reorganization movement on a world scale has sometimes given rise, in industrial policy, to totally different behaviours from governments. Thus, the strategies of the Japanese and French branches are countered by measures taken by the US Government to deregulate and liberalize the market. The authors conclude by pointing out that, given the limited means at its disposal and faced with an international market of electronics threatened by competition from the Newly Industrialized Countries, there is a need for Canada to adopt a differential strategic approach which will allow it to acceed to technological sovereignty and to counter the delocalisation process which profit the NIC of South-East Asia.
In an age of electronic revolution, the conditions for global specialization have changed, be it from the nation's or from the fîrm's perspective. The logic behind the productive System is today even more integrative and systemic, hence upsetting the methods and concepts of economic and strategic analysis.
In focussing on the sphere of office-automation in the channel of electronics, the analytical framework used has been that of a « sub-channel » in order to define the interdependence and the effects of the technological synergy which are characteristic of office-automation, and to deduce the major trends in the international division of labour. Thus the use of a new, more comprehensive channel appears to be better suited for the analysis of future trends in the international division of labour.
The author recalls briefly the recent growth (20 years) of the Government controlled enterprises in the market economies : relative weight multiplied by three and mostly, a very strong diversification of their activities. Because pressure front the international environment is exerted on the old industrial societies like Canada in order that they redeploy, this trend will continue. Adaptations are made difficult and politically costly by social rigidness. In this connection, Government controlled enterprises offer very clear advantages compared to the other means available (flexibility, discretion, existence capacity of the adapters and late-comers, dispersion of forums of conflict, cooptation of the elites, real and expected contributions to growth). The forces which hinder the privatization of the Government controlled enterprises, coming from the conservative parties, are impressive : economic and political costs, possibilities of de facto privatization, the interests of the Government controlled enterprises themselves and their allies. In short, it is very likely that this trend will go on. In the face of this, the amount of expert knowledge leaves much to be desired'; some of the main lines of research are dead ends. The author outlines some new directions which will allow research to really integrate the Government controlled enterprises in the economic predictions and policy making.
The developing countries' inroads into the traditional strongholds of the developed countries are seen by some industrialized countries as a threat. In any event, the situation is forcing them to make structural adjustments, with the inherent costs this imposes on business and labour.
The primary goal of this article is to determine whether these changes threaten to « deindustrialize » Canada. Using an analysis of Canadian industry's trade performance in 150 categories and sub-categories of manufactured goods, the author concludes that Canadian business is indeed adapting to greater international competition and that the threat of deindustrialization has not yet materialized.
The article's second objective is to discover the process by which this adjustment occurs. Concerning the business sector, the author found that businesses have adjusted to these changes primarily through a decline in the number of new firms or new plants, rather than through an increase in the number of closures.
For labour, the results of a specially developed survey tend to indicate that the adjustment process also is not quite as harsh as might normally be expected. The author therefore sees little likelihood of major upheavals or massive worker displacement. He cautions, however, that we are still faced with transitional problems whose potential impact should not be underestimated.