Can Growth Ease Class Conflict?

17 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2002


This paper proposes a theory that links labor supply to wage growth and economic growth, and the conflict of interest between capital and labor. During the early stages of industrialization of a country, "surplus" labor drawn from the traditional sector of the economy is available to the modern capitalist sector at a constant or only slowly rising wage. As industrialization proceeds, this labor surplus vanishes, leading to wages rising in tandem with the growth of output. As long as there is surplus labor, workers in the modern capitalist sector, who are organized, have little interest in growth as it does not raise wages. The effect of growth is external to them, simply drawing more workers into the capitalist sector and enabling the entrants to receive rents. So capitalist-sector workers would like to redistribute income regardless of the adverse effect on growth. Once the economy grows enough for the subsistence sector to vanish, further growth raises wages. Hence, this change in the structure of the economy leads to a reduction in the intensity of the labor-capital conflict.

The dual economy model implies that growth rates rise over time and fall after the exhaustion of the labor surplus which is consistent with the stylized fact of economic growth.

Suggested Citation

Somanathan, E., Can Growth Ease Class Conflict?. Available at SSRN:

E. Somanathan (Contact Author)

Indian Statistical Institute ( email )

7 S. J. S. Sansanwal Marg
New Delhi, 110016

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