Single-Commodity Specialization

Single-Commodity Specialization


a one-sided orientation of a country’s economy in which the production of one or two commodities for export plays the central role.

Such specialization emerged in most of the colonial and dependent countries after they were drawn into the world capitalist economic system. As capitalism in the Western European countries moved from manufactory production toward large-scale industry, the flow of inexpensive machine-produced goods to the colonies increased. This led to mass impoverishment of native artisans and the capture of the internal markets of the colonies by foreign suppliers. At the same time, the creation of plantations and crude extractive industries forced the local populace to adopt these economic activities; in this way the colonial powers transformed the countries they had enslaved into exporters of specialized commodities.

Single-commodity specialization became more popular as free competition capitalism grew into imperialism. As colonial conquests expanded, an increasing number of Asian, African, and Latin American countries were drawn into the spheres of influence of the imperialist states and were compelled to adopt single-commodity specialization. As a general rule, the nature of this specialization was determined entirely by the needs of the imperialist states and the interests of their monopolies.

Single-commodity specialization leads to irrational use of natural resources, obstructs the establishment of any large-scale manufacturing industry, and maintains the developing coun-tries’ dependence on the imperialist states. The economic dispro-portions thus created force these countries to satisfy a significant proportion of the basic needs of their population through im-ports. Frequent declines in capitalist market prices for particular types of raw materials and foodstuffs have grave effects on the hard currency income of the developing countries. Already long established, single-commodity specialization continues in many developing countries even after they achieve political independence. The overcoming of single-commodity specialization is an essential condition for the developing countries’ achievement of economic self-reliance.

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