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Economic Theories of Development: An Analysis of Competing Paradigms.

As suggested by the title, this book outlines various selected perspectives on the process of economic development which have emerged in recent years and which have influenced economic policy in developing countries. The purpose of the book is to elucidate the nature of what the author perceives to be the current dominant strains of thought about the development process, and to clarify the nature of the major differences between them. It is written to compliment the typical economic development text which generally tends to be weak in the exposition of general theories of development. Inasmuch as the nature of the development analysis undertaken and the resulting policy prescription ultimately rest on some dominant paradigm, the author has undertaken a useful, albeit ambitious project.

The book evolves in a systematic fashion. In Chapter 1, (Introduction) the author introduces the idea of the Kuhnian paradigm which is used to differentiate the different schools of thought, and lays out the structure of the book. Chapter 2 (The Theoretical Heritage) provides an historical review of selected elements of dynamic theory relating to long run growth which had accumulated by the mid-twentieth century, focusing on those theoretical elements that might explain aspects of the processes of economic growth and rising labor productivity. This sets the stage for Chapter 3 (The Theoretical Debate in Development Economics From the 1940s: An Overview) in which the author reviews contemporary contributions to development theory, identifies what she perceives to be the principal resulting paradigms and lays out the remaining structure of the book. The subsequent chapters are each devoted to the formal presentation and evaluation of a particular paradigm. Chapter 4 (The Paradigm of the Expanding Capitalist Nucleus) presents an examination of the Classical type of Lewis/Ranis-Fei dual sector models, while Chapter 5 (The Structuralist Paradigm) formally analyzes the Latin American structuralist school. Contemporary mainstream Marxist thought is discussed in Chapter 6 (The Neo-Marxist Paradigm), Chapter 7 is devoted to a rigorous examination of dependency analysis (Dependency Analyses: The Seeds of a New Paradigm?), and Chapter 8 (The Maoist Paradigm) focuses on the critical elements of the Chinese model. The impact of the increased attention to basic needs is discussed in Chapter 9 (The Basic Needs Paradigm) and the key development contributions of the neoclassical school are reviewed in Chapter 10 (The Neo-classical Paradigm and its Role in Development Economics). The book concludes with a fairly rigorous examination of the compatibility and incompatibility of the various paradigms, particularly as they relate to policy issues [Chapter 11 (Conclusion)].

As duly noted by the author, any attempt to classify a large body of literature into several central categories runs the risk of superficiality or oversimplification. In addition, given the vast amount of literature in the field, it is necessary to restrict the process to what are perceived as critical contributions in each of the selected paradigms. Hunt made a wise decision in delineating a set of perspectives large enough to reduce the problem of oversimplification and yet small enough to keep the analysis useful and manageable. The result is a needed and useful contribution to the study of economic development.

Not surprisingly, however, the author's choice of taxonomy and focus did raise some issues in my mind. I question, for example, if her first paradigm, the Expanding Capitalist Nucleus (Chapter 4), is not more correctly a paradigm of economic dualism which has direct links to earlier classical models. I felt that this chapter was also weakened by the absence of any reference to the Classical writing cited by both Lewis and Ranis and Fei, the emphasis on the work by Rostow, the absence of any reference to subsequent work by Ranis and Fei, and the notable absence of any reference to the contributions by Dale Jorgenson on economic dualism. In addition, I was not convinced that Dependency Analysis (Chapter 7) or Basic Needs (Chapter 9) constitute development paradigms in the Kuhnian sense introduced in Chapter 1. In spite of her creative exposition, I remain unconvinced that dependency is anything more than a possible characteristic of a development process. It is certainly an important part of Neo-Marxist thought and a possible aspect of the structuralist paradigm, but I question whether it should be viewed as a unique paradigm. Similarly, a concern with basic needs represents a welfare focus and resulting development strategy which is compatible with several development paradigms. It is not, in my mind, a paradigm of development. Finally, I felt that the literature review was not always as current as it might be and was in some cases incomplete. Notably absent was any reference to the work on the Neo-Marxist paradigm and North-South models by writers such as Findlay, Bacha, Taylor and Krugman.

Overall, however, Economic Theories of Development is a very useful addition to the set of source material on economic development. It is a well exposited, scholarly piece of work which fills a noticeable gap in this body of literature. It would be an excellent compliment to many basic economic development texts.
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Author:Field, Alfred J., Jr.
Publication:Southern Economic Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Words:835
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