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Tea WarA History of Capitalism in China and India$
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Andrew B Liu

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780300243734

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300243734.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM YALE SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.yale.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Yale University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in YSO for personal use.date: 20 September 2021

Incense and Industry

Incense and Industry

Labor-Intensive Capital Accumulation in the Tea Districts of Huizhou and the Wuyi Mountains

(p.45) 2 Incense and Industry
Tea War

Andrew B. Liu

Yale University Press

This chapter, set in nineteenth-century China, examines how market pressures forced tea producers in the provinces of Anhui and Fujian to increase productivity in an industrial manner, despite lacking cutting-edge technology. During this time, rural tea production in China exhibited social dynamics that belong squarely within the modern history of capitalism. Drawing on the family archives of the Jiang family in southern Anhui and social-scientific surveys of the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian, it describes how guest merchants became factory managers, employing slow-burning incense sticks and arcane local customs to measure, regulate, and raise labor productivity, all in response to a rising global demand followed by plummeting prices. The emphasis on productivity—squeezing out a greater rate of output (tea) per labor input—constituted a strategy of labor-intensive capital accumulation. The inland tea merchants, in other words, attempted to remain profitable in a world of falling prices by asking seasonal laborers to work harder, faster, and for less reward.

Keywords:   China, tea producers, Anhui, labor productivity, tea production, capitalism, Wuyi Mountains, factory managers, labor-intensive capital accumulation, tea merchants

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