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Heterodox Economic Legacies


Praveen Jha

THE ORIGINS OF DEVELOPMENT ECONOMICS
Edited by K.S. Jomo and Erik S. Reinert
Tulika Books, New Delhi and Zed Books, New Delhi, 2005, pp. xxii 165, Rs. 400.00

THE PIONEERS OF DEVELOPMENT ECONOMICS
Edited by K.S. Jomo
Tulika Books, New Delhi and Zed Books, 2005, pp. xiii 234, Rs. 500.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 1-2 January-February 2006

Although mainstream economists would hate to acknowledge it, much of what they practise in the name of development econom- ics is short on substance, however elegant it may appear in form. Typically, the fare dished out by them is a body of arguments and ideas rooted in the standard microeconomic theory, which has been subjected to severe criticism over several decades now, and justifiably so, for its ahistoricity, methodological individualism and on a host of other grounds. But the loyal members of the aforementioned tribe seems to be unfazed by such critical scrutinies; they not only swear by the proverbial clothes of the Emperor but often celebrate it. Furthermore, given the stranglehold of the mainstream on the profession at the current juncture, it is really unfortunate that the students in most universities are hardly exposed to the substantive richness of the alternative approaches towards engaging with the central concerns of development economics. In fact, it is a pity that even the body of thought that came to be identified as a sub-discipline in the post-war period in the name of development economics, which was largely structured around very significant contributions from among the dissenters within the mainstream tradition itself, has been marginalized in the recent years. As it happens, texts carrying titles such as ‘Development Micro Economics’ strut gleefully on the upmarket shelves of the high fashion street in the profession today.   Given such a backdrop, the two books under review here, (which are part of a trilogy), are of immense value. These remind the readers that the current phase of the neoliberal economic orthodoxy, with a touching faith in the dictum that the ‘market-knows-and-does-the-best’, may well be an exceptional juncture when viewed in a longer-term perspective. The first of these two volumes attempts to capture the rich and long tradition of thinking on economic transformation and progress from pre-Smithian times to the classical development economics of the post-World War II era. Through this broad sweep it shows the wealth of insights which are typically ignored by the contemporary mainstream economists, partly on account of their quest for ever-superior formalism and partly due to ideology masquerading as epistemology. Furthermore, as this survey shows, there is a remarkable continuity of ideas and arguments, along alternative tracks, in this long journey. Thus, as the editors put it: ‘There are no paradigm shifts in the Kuhnian sense but, rather, parallel streams, often at ...


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