1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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

Reviving Development Economics: Eight Challenges and Dilemmas (Draft)



Reviving Development Economics is both crucial and full of challenges and dilemmas which are particularly acute in this era of economic neo-liberalism led globalisation. First and foremost, it implies reviving the developmental role of the state in leading economic and social policy making. This does not, however, mean a return to the total dominance of the role of the state to the exclusion of all other actors, especially civil society but also the market. In fact, quite the contrary, because it implies creating space for a plurality of organisations, each playing roles at which they are best. It does mean, however, that there should be a socially activist state that leads society’s development efforts---a state that creates an enabling environment both for civil society which is committed to a democratization and development project and for a vibrant market which is also committed to contributing to society’s overall developmental efforts.

The biggest obstacle to such a revival is the neo-liberal economic climate that has informed global economic policy making since the early 1980s----and in particular the policy prescriptions that the US and UK governments have championed both at home and overseas since then and the role of the international financial institutions (IFIs) and World Trade Organisation (WTO) which are heavily influenced by them. The United Nations system also appears increasingly constrained by the policies of these governments both for financial and other reasons.

Economic neo-liberalism has also unsurprisingly coincided with or even caused the death of development economics as a serious academic course of enquiry particularly in the US but also in the UK where it had traditionally had a much longer and vibrant history. Without a revival of development economics in both these centres of industrialized power, especially in the US, it is hard to imagine a global economic climate which will be conducive to a strong developmental socially activist state in the South or useful and relevant international financial and other multilateral institutions.


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