1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Special Events (2000 - 2009)

The "Washington Consensus" and Development Economics (Draft)



The disappearance of development economics, and replacement of economic development strategy with a simple code for liberalizing international trade and capital flows, has undoubtedly contributed to the economic failure experienced by the vast majority of low to middle income countries over the last two decades. Thandika Mkandawire and others have summarized some of the analytical capacity and tools that were lost in this neo-classical and neo-liberal resurgence. In many ways it is similar to the loss of knowledge in the natural sciences due to clerical influence during the Middle Ages; so it is a great thing that the UNRISD has taken up this project not only to recover lost knowledge but to lay the foundation for real progress in both practice and theory.

I would like to reverse the natural order of such a discussion and begin with the specific rather than the general, to focus first on the political and strategic aspects of reviving Development Economics. To move away from the extremist position that now dominates economic thinking and practice on these subjects will require simultaneous battles on a number of fronts. We will need to create the political, intellectual, and media space for a more honest discussion of very crucial economic issues - a discussion that barely exists, in the most prominent forums, at present. This could take a long time, but some of it can be done piece-by-piece: there are certain strategic reforms that may be winnable in the near future, that could bring us much closer to these goals.


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