The Pioneers of Development Economics: Great Economists on Development

By Salazar, Lorraine Carlos | Journal of Southeast Asian Economies, August 2006 | Go to article overview

The Pioneers of Development Economics: Great Economists on Development


Salazar, Lorraine Carlos, Journal of Southeast Asian Economies


DOI: 10.1355/ae23-2m The Pioneers of Development Economics: Great Economists on Development. Edited by Jomo K.S. New Delhi: Tulika Books; London and New York: Zed Books, 2005. Pp. 234.

The central preoccupation of modern economic thinking over the past two centuries has been the question of how best to foster national economic development. Emerging in conjunction with industrial capitalism, economic thinking has given rise - after many permutations - to a dominant orthodoxy popularly known as the "Washington Consensus", which promotes a Neoliberal economic order based on the profit motive, markets, and free trade.

The current book is part of a trilogy that aims to trace and reassess the development of economic ideas, presenting both a critique and an alternative discourse to the dominant Neoliberal paradigm. In a crucial contribution to the history of economic thought, the contributors to this book revisit and reassess important contributions to the debates surrounding economic development through analysing the work of many economists that are not normally considered pioneers of development economics.

The authors of the volume suggest that the way forward for development economics is to reject the imperialist and nineteenth century English liberal economic orthodoxy and instead build on the heterodox economic legacies of various development economists examined in the book. Indeed, this book (and the two others in the trilogy) is part of the ongoing reassessment of economics as a discipline to make it less "autistic" and respond more effectively to the needs of the developing world.

In doing so, the essays in this collection provide a "critical response to formalistic reductionism in development economics" as well as a wealth of alternative views on economic ideas from "the pioneering generation of the post-war decades, reflecting the diversity that still characterised economic thought at that time, before the orthodoxy of today was established" (pp. vii-viii).

This current volume is comprised of sixteen chapters, and in its introduction, Jomo K.S., currently Assistant secretary General for Economic Development in the United Nation's Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), contends that a re-evaluation of the history of development economics provides an "opportunity to challenge the current 'limited and limiting' Neoliberal perspective, whose fundamental categories of analysis are necessarily linked to particular historical circumstances" (p. viii).

Prabhat Patnaik, in the first chapter of the book, argues that the division between "economics" and "development economics" as disciplines should be rejected, as underdeveloped economies are not merely laggards struggling to catch up with developed economies. Rather, their state is a result of their interaction with metropolitan capitalism, and not due to their "pristine pre-capitalist condition". Prabhat Patnaik argues that "developed and underdeveloped countries together constitute the totality of capitalism" (p. 6) and this totality must be the domain of analysis of economic theory, to be treated as a whole.

The following chapters reassess the contributions of many different economists in their richness and variety to ideas on economic development. While Karl Marx, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Alexander Gerschenkron, Raul Prebisch, Arthur Lewis, and Hans Singer are normally seen as key - albeit heterodox - thinkers in the development of ideas in development economics, other contributors in the book also assess the works and ideas of economists such as William Petty, Friedrich List, Alexander Hamilton, Alfred Marshall, Michael Kalecki, Nicholas Kandor, and John Maynard Keynes.

Given the richness of the debates that the chapters in the volume discuss, this review focuses on two chapters as examples: Utsa Patnaik's chapter on David Ricardo and Kari Polanyi Levitt's on his father, Karl Polanyi.

Utsa Patnaik, in his contribution to the volume, takes David Ricardo to task and argues that his theory of comparative advantage rests on an erroneous assumption. …

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