An Evening, Chapter 32


It is well known that the share of the global labor force working in services has risen precipitously over the past several decades, with nearly half of all workers around the globe now counted in the service sector. Scholarly work on the source and effects of this transition has risen in tandem, producing attempts to variously project visions of a “knowledge economy” in the global north and account for premature deindustrialization across the global south.

In a 1992 volume, Jean-Claude Delaunay and Jean Gadrey shed light on the history of services as a concept, with a chronological summary of three centuries of theories of service work. From the introduction:

“It is difficult to interpret correctly the major characteristics of what has been called the ‘services revolution,’ even though these characteristics are clearly visible. As economic activities, services have appeared fragile and unimportant, not suitable to ensure employment or economic prosperity. Yet services have fundamentally changed economic and social structures.

The notion of a post-industrial society was particularly popular in the late-1960s because it offered to intellectuals, who were tired of the technocratic power of enterprises and governments, the perspective of an intelligence-based society, which would finally do away with the notion of production for no other purpose than production itself. The services with which we are concerned today are not the same as the ones observed by Adam Smith. They differ in the way they are produced, in their results and in their diversity. Moreover, services, as we know them now, cannot be separated from goods; they are intimately interwoven with production and use. In the 18th and 19th centuries, economists discussed the role of services in society. Today, they study the service society.”

Link to the book.

  • A 2013 article in the Cambridge Journal of Economics by Guarav Nayyar looks at the “black box” of services in India. Link. In a 1988 commentary paper also in the CJE, Deepak Nayyar examines the political economy of international trade in services. Link.
  • “Little is known about the size of the informal economy either across the service sector as a whole, or in particular service industries, either globally, in particular global regions, or nations.” An overview article by Abbi Kedir, Colin Williams, and Levent Altinay on services and informality introduces a journal issue dedicated to the topic. Link.
  • In a 2008 paper, Fiona Tregenna examines the relationship between manufacturing and services in South Africa, “focussing on the ‘Hirschmanian’ channels through which sectoral growth can lead or support aggregate economic growth.” Link. A 2009 paper by Tregenna looks at services as a concept in the history of Marxian economic thought. Link. (See also a 2018 paper by Tregenna on the question of sectoral analysis and definition more broadly. Link.)


Inclusion in agricultural cooperatives

Economics PhD candidate at the University of Florida SCOTT MILLER studies development economics, impact evaluation, and agricultural markets. In a 2020 paper, Miller examines women’s livestock cooperatives in rural Nepal.

From the abstract:

“Is there a tradeoff between inclusive membership and market performance in agricultural cooperatives? Prior studies argue that inclusive membership practices damage cooperative performance by increasing internal transaction and coordination costs. However, studies on this topic have largely overlooked the extent to which organizational activities are inclusive of existing members. In this paper, I expand the definition of inclusive membership to account for two separate sources of inclusion, extensive and intensive, and examine the inclusive-performance tradeoff across each dimension. Extensive inclusion describes the diversity of a cooperative’s membership, while intensive inclusion describes the extent to which existing members are included in group activities. My results suggest that extensive inclusion is associated with lower market performance, while intensive inclusion is associated with higher market performance. This may suggest that both extensive and intensive inclusion have a meaningful, but opposite, impact on a cooperative’s ability to achieve market performance.”

Link to the piece, link to Miller’s website.

Each week we highlight great work from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Have you read any excellent research recently that you’d like to see shared here? Send it our way:

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  • “Causal methods naturalize the distinction between direct (and thus discriminatory) effects of race and indirect (and thus legitimate) effects of race, creating what looks like a successful way to bootstrap formal statistical or experimental methods into substantive moral and political judgments.” On the blog, Lily Hu on causal reasoning about racial discrimination. Link.
  • JFI released a congressional district-level interactive map detailing student debt burdens, costs, and access. The new map, which can be used by constituents to track the debt crisis in their districts, follows the release of the third report on millennial student debt. Link to the map, link to the report.
  • A new paper by Kai Koddenbrock, Ingrid Kvangraven, and Ndongo Samba Sylla takes a long view of the finance-production nexus in Senegal and Ghana. Link.
  • “Implementing all feasible interventions reduced plastic pollution by 40% from 2016 rates and 78% relative to ‘business as usual’ in 2040. Even with immediate and concerted action, 710 million metric tons of plastic waste cumulatively entered aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.” A paper in Science models interventions towards zero plastic pollution. By Winnie Lau, Yonathan Shiran, Richard M. Bailey et al. Link.
  • Mary Brazelton on China’s project of mass immunization during the Second Sino-Japanese war. Link.
  • “China is focusing its post-Covid recovery on high-carbon energy and infrastructure, as it did after the 2008-9 global financial crisis.” Lauri Myllyvirta and Yedan Li on the energy implications of China’s recovery spending, in the light of Xi Jinping’s announcement that China would achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Link.
  • “Moral panics surrounding the prevalence of migrant workers in platform work in turn shape how platform workers are regulated by the state, and also the development of the platform model itself.” Link to Dalia Gebrial’s contribution to Autonomy’s collection of research on platform firms.
  • Christian Henderson examines state agricultural land grabs by Gulf nations: “I propose that these projects are part of commodity chains that are articulated to the agribusiness industry in the Gulf states.” Link.
  • “I find that New York City’s key local political actors reacted to [Hurricane Sandy] by shifting the city’s climate politics from a tentative cosmopolitanism emphasizing decarbonization to a defensive parochialism emphasizing adaptation.” Daniel Aldana Cohen on climate disaster and policy. Link.
  • “This article offers a quantitative analysis of wealth inequality in the Ottoman Empire, focusing on the town of Kastamonu, located in northern Anatolia, in the course of the eighteenth century. Our primary sources of data are the probate estate inventories (terekes) found in the court records (sicils) of this town. We estimate aggregate measures of wealth inequality, namely the Gini coefficient, the coefficient of variation, and the wealth shares of the top 10 and top 25 percent of estates. Our results show that wealth inequality rose significantly in Kastamonu during the course of the eighteenth century, a pattern that was parallel to those observed in Europe prior to the Industrial Revolution. Contrary to widely held presumptions, our results suggest that tax farming did not contribute to the rise in inequality. The immediate effect of warfare was consistently negative and mostly significant, indicating that consequences of Ottoman wars worked in such a way that the gap between the rich and the poor narrowed.” By Metin Coşgel and Boğaç Ergene. Link.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations:

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