Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

In Defense of Making Things: Why Manufacturing Still Matters

Document type Article
Author Pelagidis, Theodore
Author Mitsopoulos, Michael
Journal Relations Industrielles / Industrial Relations
Volume 74
Date 2019 Winter
ISSN 0034-379X, 1703-8138
Pages 187-192


A relatively recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) publication is not the only voice that suggests the possibility of achieving prosperity and growth in the modern age without the need to have a strong manufacturing base. Like agriculture before the industrial revolution, “making things” appears to take the back seat as services, and in particular knowledge intensive services that determine “how to make things”, take over as growth drivers. Of course, the trends of progress are irreversible, and “making things” will constitute a shrinking part of employment and, possible value created. The latter will most likely be even truer if one cannot separate perfectly the value of incorporated services, as the knowledge content of the “things made” and the incorporated services build their own complex interactions and grow exponentially. However, as we argue here, there will always be a need to make things (including the occasional spacesuit taking a drive in its interstellar Tesla car). Even as the relationship between physical manufacturing, knowledge and services becomes more blurred, manufacturing will remain an indispensable ingredient of the final product. As pointed out in the literature, the role of manufacturing is and will never be the same for developing and developed countries, performing different roles in both. For developing countries, it will still contribute towards the rapid development of key skills that will complete the skills set of the country, and for developed countries, it will have a mature and symbiotic relationship with services, ensuring the proximity of the know-how and the production of goods that incorporate it, seamless cooperation, and design and service development at the frontier. --Introduction