The Classical Origins of Akamatsu’s “Flying-Geese” Theory: A Note on a Missing Link to David Hume

Ozawa, Terutomo

The ‘flying-geese” theory of economic development introduced by Kaname Akamatsu (1897-1974) of Hitotsubashi University in the mid-1930s is the only “Japan-born” theory that has so far attracted wide attention and some acceptability in the academia worldwide. Studying in Germany for two years in 1924-26, Akamatsu was strongly influenced by a number of development-stages theories expounded by the German historical school, notably Friedrich List (1789-1846), Bruno Hildebrand (1812-1878), Karl Marx (1818-1883), and Gustav von Schmoller (1838-1917). Akamatsu also drew on the ideas of Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) and Henry Carey (1793-1879), both Americans, who along with List, advocated infant-industry protection in order to build national industrial development. Surprising is, however, that there is no mention of David Hume (1711-1776) in Akamastsu’s works despite the fact that Hume was a noted thinker on economic development and a major philosopher, who impacted both Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and Georg Wilhelm F. Hegel (1770-1831). Akamatsu was very much engrossed in Hegelian dialectic. His analysis was, in fact, couched in dialectical perspectives. What is most fascinating was that Hume (1754) observed how a rich country is destined to lose its competitiveness in manufacturing and compels its producersto “gradually shift their places, leaving those countries and provinces which they have already enriched, and flying to others, whither they are allured by the cheapness of provisions and labour” (emphasis added). Hume thus zeroed in on the core mechanism of cross-border industrial transmigration and a sequential spread of economic growth and prosperity from one emerging economy to another. His insightful observation amply adumbrated Akamatsu’s flying-geese theory, though the latter apparently missed to notice it.

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Academic Units
Center on Japanese Economy and Business
Center on Japanese Economy and Business, Graduate School of Business, Columbia University
Center on Japanese Economy and Business Working Papers, 320
Published Here
April 24, 2013