Introduction and General Summary
The industrial organization branch of economics emphasizes identification and understanding of the factors critical to the survival and growth or decline of an industry and its constituent firms. Given that aim, an update and generalization of a near-classic study of an important industry with which I was familiar had considerable appeal. Jesse W. Markham Competition in the Rayon Industry [ 1952] provided a fairly complete set of professionally accepted hypotheses to guide an effort focused on one key question. That question was: How well did Markham's major conclusions apply to the United States man-made fibers industry which evolved from, but eventually surpassed, the cellulosic fibers subindustry, which Markham called the rayon industry? A sound answer requires showing when Markham's specific conclusions about the pre- 1949 U.S. cellulosic fiber industry's structure, conduct, and performance did and did not hold true for the larger and more complex post-1948 United States man-made fibers industry.
The structural issues are so numerous and complex that three consecutive chapters are devoted to them. Chapter 2 briefly introduces the U.S. man-made fibers industry to those unfamiliar with it. Chapter 3 treats the conditions of supply and demand. Chapter 4 examines the structures of the subindustries composing the U.S. man-made fibers industry. Chapter 5 discusses the structural determinants, including costs and economies of scale, existence, and integration. Two chapters are devoted to an examination of the industry's behavior. Chapter 6 focuses on the price aspects of behavior including price trends, cyclical and short-run price behavior, price structures, and selling terms. Chapter 7 concentrates on nonprice behavior, which is vital to one's understanding the industry and here essentially independent of price. Chapter 8 examines the industry's performance in terms of its overall social benefits, productivity, profits, and workability. This study's major conclusions are summarized below while the remaining chapters detail the hypotheses tested, the data gathered for such tests, and the conclusions derived from those efforts.