Premature Deindustrialization

The ‘premature deindustrialization’ thesis advanced by economist Dani Rodrik (2016), de-centres former sites of Fordist manufacturing in the Global North in order to stretch our understanding of deindustrialization and go beyond the analyses of so called ‘advanced,’ post-industrial economies. In doing so, Rodrik challenges existing literature which can tend to reduce the Global South to merely being the new home of outsourced industrial production.


At the core of Rodrik’s thesis is the idea that the Global North and South have experienced deindustrialisation in different, if not disproportionate, ways. Rodrik contends that the economic impact of deindustrialisation in the South has been both more rapid and more severe, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. For Rodrik, this has been driven by globalization, trade liberalization, labour-saving technological ‘progress’ and China’s growing presence in the manufacturing sector. Resultantly, national economies in the Global South are said to be ‘running out of industrialization opportunities sooner and at much lower levels of income compared to the experience of early industrializers’ (Rodrik, 2016: 1). Rodrik also speculates that premature deindustrialization has the potential to make liberal democracy more fragile and democratization less likely (2016: 29). For Rodrik, this is a consequence of dissipating shared class interests and solidarity among ‘non-elites’, forms of authoritarian rule which limit political mobilization and, relatedly, the alleged comparative weakness of organized labour in the Global South. Thus, these conditions are said to have the potential to give rise to the dominance of personalistic or ethnic identities that dominate over class solidarity, while unshackling elites who may well then turn towards populism.


More recent research on premature deindustrialization has stressed to the need to go beyond both country-level data and the framing deindustrialization as a national-level problem which can be fixed by national-level policies (Scheller et al., 2020). Scheller et al. argue that premature deindustrialization ‘is most intensively and viscerally experienced’ in urban locales and communities (2020: 3). Thus, noting the importance of recovering the ‘experience[s] of people beyond the North Atlantic whose histories have been erased in scholarship on deindustrialization’ (2020: 3). Addressing these points, recent research has drawn attention to the multifaceted and variegated nature of deindustrialization in the Global South.


Deusdedit Rwehumbiza’s (2018) research on Tanzania notes that the effects of deindustrialization are most acutely felt at the local level, particularly in communities where retrenched labourers (i.e., workers whose service has been terminated by the employer for reasons other than punishment or disciplinary action) struggle to meet the various demands and challenges posed by everyday life. Focusing on the situation in Ghana, Philipa Akuoko’s (2018) work on the Kejetia/Central Market Redevelopment Project highlights that this project has had limited impact in terms of empowering informal sector workers. Neha Sami (2018) uses the closure of the Hindustan Machine Tools factory in Bangalore in 2016 to explore the changing nature and consequences of public sector (de-)industrialization in India, highlighting the way in which the use of different spaces changes and evolves, while noting how this impacts on local economies and (un-)employment. Himanshu Burte’s (2018) research in Mumbai explores the consequences of deindustrialization in terms of transformations in the spatial pattern of housing, placemaking and livelihoods at regional, metropolitan, street and neighbourhood levels. Focusing on  Delhi, Gaurav Sikka (2018) considers how neoliberal regimes enact rapid forms of gentrification and displacement at ‘the expense of the disempowered and downtrodden’. Using Turkey as a case study, Mustafa Kemal Bayırbağ (2018) spotlights the way in which urbanisation strategy in the 2000s ‘facilitated deindustrialisation, as part of a contradictory and implosive development policy’. Lastly, Jesse Souza (2018) contends that deindustrialization in São Paulo has created a new precarious working class, noting that deindustrialization has not only changed how inequality is perceived, but has also shaped the relationship between popular movements and party politics.



Essential Readings
Castillo, M. and Neto, A. M. (2016) Premature deindustrialization in Latin America – Production Development Series. Santiago: United Nations.
Hamid, N. and Khan, M. (2015) ‘Pakistan: A Case of Premature Deindustrialization?’, The Lahore Journal of Economics, 20: 107–141.
Rodrik, D. (2015) ‘Premature deindustrialization in the developing world’, Dani Rodrik’s weblog: Unconventional thoughts on economic development and globalization.
Rodrik, D. (2016) ‘Premature deindustrialization’, Journal of Economic Growth, 21(1): 1–33.
Rodrik, D. (2015) ‘Premature deindustrialization in the developing world’, Dani Rodrik’s weblog: Unconventional thoughts on economic development and globalization.
Schindler, S., Gillespie, T., Banks, N., Bayırbağ, M. K., Burte, H., Kanai, J. M. & Sami, N. (2020) ‘Deindustrialization in cities of the Global South’, Area Development and Policy, 5(3): 283-304.


Further Readings and Resources
Bayırbağ, M. K. (2013a) ‘Continuity and change in public policy: Redistribution, exclusion and state rescaling in Turkey’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 37(4), 1123–1146.
Burte, H., & Kamath, L. (2017). The violence of worlding: Producing space in neo-liberal Durban, Mumbai and Rio de Janeiro. Economic & Political Weekly, 52(7), 66–74.
Conversations with Tyler (2015) ‘Dani Rodrik on Premature Deindustrialization and Why the World is Second Best at Best’, Medium.
Marginal Revolution University (2015) ‘The deindustrialization of India’, YouTube.
Marginal Revolution University (2015) ‘Dani Rodrik’, Youtube.
Schindler, S. (2018) ‘The New Geography of Deindustrialisation and the Rise of the Right’, Global Development Institute Blog.
United Nations Industrial Development Organization (2019) ‘Groningen University’s Gaaitzen de Vries on premature de-industrialization’, YouTube.



  1. Consider the ways in which scholars in the global North have traditionally theorised deindustrialisation.
  2. What are the core tenets of Rodik’s theory of ‘premature deindustrialization’?
  3. Discuss the similarities and differences pertaining to ‘premature deindustrialization’ in different countries of the Global South?
  4. What role, if any, has the Global North played in the ‘premature deindustrialization’ of the Global South?
  5. In what ways does the theory of ‘premature deindustrialization’ challenge far right attempts to narrate the impact of deindustrialization in the Global North?


Submitted by Stephen Ashe

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