1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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

Development Studies or Development Economics: Moving forward from TINA (Draft)

Rethinking is not resuscitation. Too much breast-beating at this stage about the all too well known sins of commission and ommission of neo-liberalism and the Washington Consensus or, more broadly, of neoclassical economics, may divert attention from the actual weaknesses of development economics on the one hand, and on the other, the critical issues ahead that urgently call for understanding and action. So much intellectual energy has been spent on combatting the TINA syndrome with respect to SAPs and financial liberalization that, with a few exceptions, our analysis has not adequately recognized the changes in both the regimes of accumulation and the modes of regulation that underpin the neoliberal thrust. Understanding these changes as the basis of neoliberalism does not mean falling into the TINA trap; instead it should help to more precisely locate what is possible.

In my note, I would also like to shift focus from development economics (more narrowly understood) to development studies, because I believe that one of the weaknesses of development economics arises precisely from its inability to integrate the richer understanding based on development studies more broadly. And indeed, at quite the same time that traditional development economics was reeling from the onslaught of the neoliberals, our analysis and understanding of participatory approaches to rural development, the importance of sustainable livelihoods, and the need for a gendered analysis of development (to name only a few) have been growing and flourishing. It is important to remember that development studies is certainly not dead regardless of the obituaries that have been written for development economics over the last two decades.

And this may be a good starting point for a more integrated analysis of the current and future situation in which low-income countries might find themselves. A major weakness in much discussion is insufficient attention to the changes in the regime of accumulation that have occurred in the last three decades. Despite all the current verbiage on globalization, it is difficult to find good analysis of the actual changes in the labour process that the information technology revolution has made possible. Most of what has been written relates to the IT industry itself, to corporate services, and to the global assembly-line. But surely the changes are more widespread and deep, transforming the core of industrial and agricultural production, and opening new frontiers for technology and research. We do not have a good integrated analysis such as that provided by Harry Braverman’s marvellous Labour and Monopoly Capital for the previous period. Even less do we have a gendered understanding of these processes despite the growing recognition that flexible workforces include large numbers of women.

When we add to this, the incipient and massive changes that are looming with the biotechnology revolution, we can glimpse the potential implications for accumulation overall, and for development as well. I am not a technological determinist, but I do believe that the changes that began with the IT revolution and that are continuing with the biotech revolution have profound and very poorly understood implications for development analysis and policy.

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