ALBERT O. HIRSCHMAN: A THINKING AND WORKING DEVELOPMENT ECONOMIST
AN EXCELLENT PAPER AND REVIEW OF ALBERT HIRSCHMAN 'S LIFE AND WORK HERE
"The Trespassing Thinker: Albert #Hirschman & #economic #development
Being a Consultant “Expert” in a Developing Country: the Legacy and Lessons of Albert Hirschman" Pier Giorgio Ardeni, Department of Economics, University of Bologna
After more than half a century, the reflections of Albert O. Hirschman on development assistance, the role of consultant “experts” in providing policy advice and the “visiting economist’s syndrome” are still very current. In as much as Hirschman argued against all-encompassing policy frameworks, overall development plans and universal models, “one-size-fits-all” models abstracting from the local, historical, geographic and institutional conditions have remained the prevailing modus operandi of international development agencies and governments in development assistance. In spite of Paul Krugman’s criticism of Hirschman’s lack of a mathematically-consistent approach in favour of an ad hoc pragmatism, Hirschman’s avoidance of assuming a toy model to deal with practical issues and the specificities of development problems in different countries – while still using rigorous and detailed analysis– appears to be a promising attitude of enormous relevance even today. If the rejection of large-scale models of the hey days of development theory was due to the neoliberal policy wave that led to the “Washington consensus” – more market and less State –, development assistance has remained firmly entrenched in the principles of balanced growth, all-encompassing liberalizing policy reforms and diffused marketization with an increasingly limited role for the State. Development assistance approaches have maintained a standard list of prescriptions, policy-reform recipes for all sectors, social, institutional and even political objectives, under the justification that “everything depends on everything”. In this paper, I briefly review the evidence regarding the active pursuit of a paradigm that, sidelining Hirschman’s unorthodox approach, has confirmed that we have “forgotten nothing and learned nothing”, as Hirschman once said. While Hirschmanian concepts like “linkages” and “leading sectors” and some of his famous parables – like the “tunnel effect” on inequality – have left an enduring mark on economists’ perspectives, his “unbalanced-growth” has been dismissed on ineffectual grounds, while his “empirical lantern” has been derided and abandoned. The lessons of Hirschman’s consultant experience in the tropics have left a legacy that goes beyond his prescriptions: it is a philosophy, a conception of the world, a guiding sets of principles that survives time. From that wilderness where Hirschman led his followers, it is only by re-igniting that lantern that we can wisely contribute to the “development” of others as savvy and informed “experts”.
[ Review by Beatriz Rodríguez-Satizábal is included in the NEP post - well worth reading - and subscribing]
• Adelman, J. (2013) Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
• Hirschman, A. (1995) A Propensity to Self-subversion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
• Hirschman, A. (1970) Exit, Voice, and Loyalty Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
• Hirschman, A. (1958) The Strategy of Economic Development. New Haven, Yale University Press.
• Krugman, P. (1994) ‘The Fall and Rise of Development Economics’, pp. 39-58. In Rodwin, Ll. and Schon, D.L. (eds) Rethinking the Development Experience. Essays Provoked by the Work of Albert O. Hirschman. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution.
THE ABOVE IS AN EXAMPLE OF THE HIGH QUALITY MATERIAL DISTRIBUTED ON NEP
BLOG (FOLLOW THE LINK HERE).
I WOULD RECOMMEND AND ADD TO THE ABOVE FURTHER READINGS,
HIRSCHMAN'S, 1977 EXCELLENT LONG (145 PAGES) ESSAY, "THE PASSIONS AND THE
INTERESTS: POLITICAL ARGUMENTS FOR CAPITALISM BEFORE ITS TRIUMPH",
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
[MEMO TO GRADUATE STUDENTS: If you can research and write as well as Hirschman does in
this essay, whatever your ideological stance on capitalism,you are assured publications, and more
important, more readers.]