The Political Economy of Poverty, Equity, and Growth: A Comparative Study


This wide-ranging and innovative book synthesises the findings of a major international study of the political economy of poverty, equity, and growth. It is based primarily on analytical economic histories of twenty-one developing countries from 1950 to 1985, but also takes into account of the much wider literature on the subject. It represents an ambitious interdisciplinary attempt to identify patterns in the interplay of initial conditions, institutions, interests, and ideas which can help to explain the different growth and poverty alleviation outcomes in the Third World. Three different types of poverty are distinguished, based on their causes, and a more nebulous notion of equity - in contrast to egalitarianism - is shown to have influenced policy. Since growth is found to be the major means of alleviating mass structural policy, much of the book is concerned with probing for explanations for policies which are found to be the most important influence on the proximate causes of growth. The authors also consider the available evidence of the role of direct transfers - public and private - in alleviating destitution and conjunctural poverty. A novel organizing framework for the comparative analysis of different growth outcomes is developed. This framework distinguishes between the different relative factor endowments of land, labour, and capital, and between the different organizational structures of peasant versus plantation and mining economies. It also differentiates between the polities of `autonomous' and `factional' states in the countries studied, breaking the analysis down into further typological subdivisions and providing important new insights into the differing behaviour of economies that are rich in natural resources and those with abundant labour. These insights constitute a richer explanation for the divergent developmental outcomes in East Asia compared with Latin America and Africa. The evidence marshalled is used to argue for the continuing relevance of the classical liberal viewpoint on public policies for development, and to show why, even so, nationalist ideologies are likely to be adopted and to lead to cycles of dirigisme and liberalism. The evidence is also used to provide an explanation for the surprising current world-wide Age of Reform.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Oxford
Publication year:
  • 1998


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