Home > Uncategorized > Understanding economic development and demolishing neoliberal development myths

Understanding economic development and demolishing neoliberal development myths

from Erik Reinert, Jayati Ghosh and Rainer Kattel and WEA Commentaries

We have recently co-edited a book (The Handbook of Alternative Theories of Economic Development, Edward Elgar 2016, also available as an e-book on http://www.ebooks.com/95628740/handbook-of-alternative-theories-of-economic-development/reinert-erik-s-ghosh-jayati-kattel-rainer/) that seeks to bring back the richness of development economics through many different theories that have contributed over the ages to an understanding of material progress. The underlying approach is based on this quotation from nearly four centuries ago: “There is a startling difference between the life of men in the most civilised province of Europe, and in the wildest and most barbarous districts of New India. This difference comes not from the soil, not from climate, not from race, but from the arts.” (Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, 1620)

For centuries, economics was at its very core an art, a practice and a science devoted to ‘economic development’, albeit under a variety of labels: from an idealistic promotion of ‘public happiness’ to the nationalistic creation of wealth and greatness of nations and rulers, and the winning of wars. In some sense, until about 100 years ago, most economists were ‘development economists’. But during the process of formalization of economics into neoclassical economics in the post-World War II period, development economics slowly disappeared from the economic mainstream. ‘Where are their models?’ was one famous battle cry. For example, Jacob Viner made a key contribution to the demise of development economics by removing a fundamental force of uneven development – increasing returns – from international trade theory, on the account that it was not compatible with equilibrium. What would have been more logical would have been to remove equilibrium from economic theory because it is not compatible with an analysis of the real world. Economists’ choice of tools came to trump their interest in reality. Equilibrium became virtually the only game in town.  read more

 

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