Sylvia Maxfield. Handbook of International Relations. Editor: Walter Carlsnaes, Thomas Risse, Beth A Simmons. Sage Publication. 2002.
As long ago as 1978 prominent scholars of international relations lamented that ‘the field of development is in disarray’ (Caporaso, 1978: 606). But observing development studies as an interdisciplinary, epistemologically rent and often politicized exercise it should not be surprising to find the field ‘untidy’ at best.
If it was disorderly in 1978, more than twenty years later development studies, as a coherent social science, is dead. ‘Once upon a time,’ writes Paul Krugman, ‘there was a field called development economics … That field no longer exists’ (Krugman, 1996: 7). ‘Development studies no longer exists as a body of knowledge with a coherent identity,’ writes Hoogvelt (1997: x). Today development studies encompasses sub-specialties in far-flung corners of our university campuses including medicine, public health, biology, environmental sciences, engineering and anthropology as well as the more traditional history, political science, economics and public policy. This diversity is more likely to place successful new courses of study in development at professional schools where they are promoted by practitioner-scholars than in discipline-bound faculties of arts or sciences. Observers lament a theoretical impasse; development studies, they claim, replaced development theory because of this morass (Schuurmann, 1993).
This chapter argues that there have been important continuities and some points of convergence in development theory. Key founding themes of development theory, such as the interaction of international circumstances and domestic political economy, have been very long-lived in the social sciences. Dependency ideas, for example, comprised a startlingly original mode of inquiry focused on the interaction between international markets and domestic political economy. ‘Second-wave’ dependency theory in particular, and later literature on transnationalism and interdependence, examined themes such as the impact of international economic relations on the nature of the state that are still a central focus of international political economy. Through successive iterations beginning in the 1960s, development theory came to focus more and more on the role of global and non-governmental actors.
A second continuity in the intellectual history of development theory focuses on the appropriate role of the state. Several schools of development theory pointed, in different ways and for varying reasons, to potential benefits of a ‘strong’ state. For the original development economists market mechanisms alone would not propel development; development required state intervention in the economy. There was emphasis on the state in modernization theory as well; modernization required a technocratic bureaucracy. Dependency theory’s view of the state is less clear. Developing countries’ international economic relations could spur government repression. But, dependency theorists also credited these repressive states with overseeing development, although it was the less-than-ideal version called ‘dependent development.’ In contrast, neoclassical economists emphasized the damage wreaked by state intervention in the economy.
Two important points of convergence are evident looking ahead at the future of development studies. One set of development scholars is concerned with the dilemmas of decision-makers who operate nationally but must react to global problems beyond their control. These students of development are tackling questions also important in orthodox international political economy (IPE). The collapse of the Bretton Woods international monetary regime and rising international capital mobility make ‘development’ a ‘universal problem faced by all states and areas of the world’ (Payne, 1998: 265). Another perhaps more controversial convergence is between rational choice political economy and historicist area studies approaches. As it is more frequently used by non-US scholars, rational choice political economy is becoming more situationally specific. A careful study of economic decentralization in Brazil, for example, might employ rational choice methods to gain new insights into how the process varies across Brazil but not claim generalizable results for countries other than Brazil.
Few scholars acknowledge these continuities and points of convergence. In the United States development studies became a politicized, interdisciplinary, policy-oriented, practitioner-defined field, lamented, if not eschewed by the social scientists pursuing theoretical innovation from positions in leading departments of politics and economics. In the Americas, at least, politics and method limited collaboration and cross-fertilization between development studies and international relations. For example, many international relations scholars saw in the dependency framework methodological proclivities and political views they could not accept. Although scholars of orthodox IPE pursued the basic thrust of dependency analysis, it was not called such. For their part dependency theorists failed to recognize aspects of dependence in ‘core’ countries and too quickly dismissed ‘first world’ scholarship. Given some of the continuities and points of convergence highlighted in following pages, this less-than-perfect consort is disappointing.
This chapter proceeds in two parts. The following section outlines the intellectual history of development studies, moving from development economics through modernization and dependency theory to neoclassicism. To shed light on sources of discord in the field the outline evaluates dominant literatures according to three criteria. These are the extent to which dominant literatures were interdisciplinary, exhibited a normative bias and/or made universal claims for their theories. The literatures that were more interdisciplinary and politicized, such as modernization and dependency theory, undermined development studies’ potential as a coherent social science discipline but broadened its general appeal. The review also stresses points of continuity and notes how theory changed with world events.
The second part briefly evaluates three contemporary strands of development studies: pragmatic, eclectic, practitioner-oriented; postmodern; and rational positivist political economy. Here there are also strong normative and epistemological issues dividing students of development. Yet in two (mostly) hidden ways development studies and political economy may converge.
Development Studies: Intellectual Archaeology
Development studies began after the Second World War as the study of growth in newly decolonized nations around the globe. But developing countries experienced highly varied growth. This empirical reality posed a challenge for development economists. The Cold War also put political organization of developing countries high on the Western world’s agenda. Overlapping and eventually overtaking development economics at the center of development studies in the 1960s and 1970s were political scientists loosely grouped under the moniker ‘modernization’ theorists. For modernization theorists, development involved synergies between democratization and economic growth. The social unrest of the 1960s hastened the demise of modernization theory. By the early 1970s dependency theory took center stage in development studies, gradually giving way in the 1980s to neoclassicism embodied in the ‘Washington Consensus.’
Development Economics: ‘Third World’ Countries are Different
The connection between economists evaluating growth in developing nations after the Second World War and international organizations was close. Considerable impetus for the field came from the United States’s commitment to aid and technical assistance articulated in President Truman’s Point Four program. This program complemented the United States’s overarching foreign policy goal of rebuilding the post-Second World War world in its own liberal, democratic image.
As a scholarly endeavor, development economics is notable in the history of development studies for its view that the economic circumstances of developing countries were qualitatively different from those of already industrialized countries. The rationale for a separate sub-field of economics was that ‘normal’ economic relationships and theories might not adequately explain growth in ‘new’ nations. In contrast to some later approaches to development studies, development economics rejected universalism, meaning that one theory could fit all economies.
The notion that different methods and theories might apply to different types of economies had roots in Keynes’s separate analysis of full employment and non-full employment economies. Generally speaking, mainstream development economists did not follow neoclassical economics. Their theoretical reference points were Keynes, Schumpeter and Marshall. Their models focused more on economic structures rather than individuals as the unit of analysis. They built on Schumpeter’s insight into economics as a process of structural change more than simple growth or capital accumulation. Food analogies illustrate the difference between the neoclassical and structural view. Streeton says the neoclassical view paints the economy as toothpaste or syrup in which factors of production, prices and whatever else flow and change easily (Streeton, 1984). Structuralists view developing country economies as toffee, full of hard-to-move pieces of capital equipment and individuals with specific skills each tied to certain geographic areas. Many development economists also shared confidence in the value of government intervention in the economies of poor countries.
Development economists differed according to their relative emphasis on domestic or international structures, few, if any, looked to integrate international and domestic models. One group of North American and European development economists stressed domestic obstacles to growth such as surplus labor or economic dualism (Lewis, 1955; Rostow, 1960). Much of the early debate centered on whether growth was best achieved via a ‘big push’ of investment toward one particular sector or through balanced investments across multiple sectors (Hirschman, 1958; Nurkse, 1953; Rosenstein-Rodan, 1943). Parallel to this literature, other development economists stressed external conditions–uneven terms of trade, for example. Latin American and European scholars were more likely to stress international circumstances than US economists, probably because these forces exerted more influence outside the United States (Prebisch, 1950; Seers, 1959; Singer, 1950).
Carving out their own methods and models of the growth experience in developing countries fully absorbed these development economists. Those who pursued the links between international and domestic circumstances in the 1950s and 1960s were more likely to be political scientists. An article by Margaret Bates (1956) asks about the domestic impact of international organizations supervising Tanganyika in the 1950s. This mirrored a focus in US and European international relations scholarship on international organizations, administration and governance. Where development economists’ models focused on technological weaknesses inhibiting growth, for example, political scientists would study the international administration of technical assistance (Sharp, 1953). Bates was an exception because very few political scientists tried to extend the main themes of the decade (international administration, voting patterns in international organizations) to the domestic political economy.
In the 1950s both political science and economics failed to address questions of distribution and equity in the development process. Development economists failed in another way. They did not accurately predict cross-national variation in growth among developing countries. Critics reproached development economists for missing the political and social aspects of development. The Cold War threw into relief political circumstances in developing countries. For these reasons, the intellectual excitement and practitioners’ taste for development economics waned. In the social sciences the terms ‘development’ or ‘modernization,’ meaning economic, social and political growth, superseded use of the term economic development.
Modernization Theory: Interdisciplinary and Normative
The shift from development economics to modernization theory as the central framework of development studies was the first of many changes in the field. With this shift development studies became more interdisciplinary and more explicitly normative. Modernization theory was also intensely universal. According to its adherents, one model of development could explain all of world history. One of the key attributes of modernization theory was to see development in stages that were at once political, economic and social. Rostow’s work exemplifies the growing disciplinary breadth, universalism and explicitly normative thrust of development studies. He worked on his ideas in the 1950s but did not publish his seminal book until 1960. The book was titled The Stages of Growth: An Anti-Communist Manifesto. All countries begin with traditional societies, Rostow observed. Traditional society enjoys little economic production, has an agricultural economy, and a rigid, hierarchical social structure. Thought is not scientific. According to Rostow, societies move through three more stages where the economy becomes less localized, trade improves, communications improve, investment as a proportion of national income rises, political and social institutions are reshaped, and science and technology expand. Finally nations reach the age of mass consumption where the masses benefit from economic growth.
The modernization literature revolved around notions of traditional and modern societies (Levy, 1966; McClelland, 1961). Development studies encompassed debate about the attributes of backward or traditional and modern conditions. Traditional societies had religious authority, rigid social structures, no incentives for innovation and efficiency, few controls on arbitrary political authority and revolved around agricultural production and rural life. Modern societies were secular, science-oriented, urban, had an extensive division of labor, encouraged innovation and efficiency, protected private property through rule of law and built a liberal ‘nightwatchman’ state. Such broad and sweeping categories mandated a multidisciplinary approach spanning economics, political science and sociology. Modernization also propelled the social sciences in an interdisciplinary direction by linking change in different social arenas. Modernization theory explicitly linked industrialization with political development and these in turn with social rationalization and secularization.
A hallmark of modernization theory within political science was a series of country studies sponsored by the United States’ Social Sciences Research Council. These studies focused on how democracy and political development would follow from economic growth. For many the ‘intervening variable’ was a changing political culture (Lapalombara, 1963; Pye, 1967).
Not only was modernization more multidisciplinary and universal than its predecessor at the center of development studies, development economics, but the Cold War engendered more explicit political discussion and judgement of what was right and wrong in the development debate. Modern societies looked like Europe and North America. All countries should be on a unilinear path toward the European and North American model. Breaking down barriers of tradition would set any country off on the route leading to North American-style economy, society and policy. Later scholars strongly criticized modernization theory for its universal, unilinear, Western-oriented bias (Cardoso and Faletto, 1979). Implicit in this theory were seeds of demise for development studies. If all countries moved through history on a linear course from backward to modern there was ultimately no need for a special field to study contemporary developing countries separately from developed countries.
Pregnant in modernization theory was the importance of non-governmental actors in the development process. The shift away from government as the unit of analysis mirrored political scientists’ break with the legal-formalism that dominated the early rise of their field. Modernization also hinted at the theoretical importance of linking international relations with development studies. Exposure to the economies and cultures of the ‘First World’ could help to break down traditional social structures and values. Trade, foreign investment, cultural penetration were all-important vehicles of modernization. But this idea remained latent within the modernization literature.7
By the mid-1960s the Cuban revolution, growing Communist influence in developing countries and social unrest and political criticism in cities across the globe invaded the modernization theory paradise. One article notes a shift of emphasis in international development institutions from technical assistance, to human capital and institutions. ‘This was sparked partly by a worry over … [y]oung people unsettled by education but frustrated by their inability to find productive and satisfying jobs in their societies’ (Millikan, 1968: 9). Social unrest and political turmoil around the world spurred a revolutionary new idea emerging in modernization circles. Samuel Huntington turned modernization theory’s happy claim that ‘all good things go together’ on its head. Economic growth and development of stable, robust democracy went hand in hand according the modernization theorists. But Huntington argued convincingly in a landmark book published in 1968 that economic growth might cause political decay. Ted Gurr (1970) added to this view with an analysis of how the rising expectations created by economic growth might be ‘why men rebel.’
Modernization theory declined for many reasons. By the late 1960s international relations scholars began to suggest that international organizations were not successful facilitators of modernization as had been supposed. Developing countries, frustrated with Cold War international politics, formed an international group of non-aligned nations. From a comparative politics perspective, trouble in many developing countries substantiated the Huntington critique of modernization theory. In many cases political chaos did seem to follow on the heels of economic growth.
Academic critics faulted modernization for failing to stipulate the sources and processes of evolution from the traditional to modern condition. Caporaso took a more philosophical view, attributing modernization theory’s demise to its pluralism. Modernization theorists, Caporaso suggests, failed to agree on what is important in development: mass participation, democracy, capacity of the government to direct social change, structural differentiation etc. (1978: 606). By 1976 dependency theory sympathizer Immanuel Wallerstein could publish an article entitled ‘Modernization: Requiescat in Pace.’
Dependence, Transnationalism and Interdependence: Linking International and Domestic Political Economy?
While some development economists had studied how international economic flows effected development, and modernization theory hinted at the role of international relations as an impetus for evolution from backward to modern, neither placed the international–domestic interaction at the center of their theory. But in the early 1970s two books stressing the growing global importance of international economic actors garnered great attention among social scientists internationally. These were Keohane and Nye’s special issue of International Organization, later published as Transnational Relations and World Politics (1971), and Cardoso and Faletto’s Dependency and Development in Latin America (1979).
Modernization theory failed adequately to address the process of change from a traditional to modern nation. To fill this lacuna these two books pointed both to the role of non-governmental actors and to the international economy. Both books reflected growing criticism of international organizations as they had operated in the first two decades after the Second World War. Both tried seriously to combine political and economic analysis and both carried a normative message. Cardoso’s work complemented a burgeoning Latin American criticism of contemporary development policy. In their introduction to Transnational Relations, Keohane and Nye (1971: 3) stated the intent to ‘describ[e] patterns of interaction in world politics and then ask what role international institutions … should play.’ But the two books differed greatly in methodology. Keohane and Nye worked in the positivist tradition while dependency theorists eschewed positivism for a more historical approach.
Latin American and African nations had been increasingly critical of the development policies promoted by multilateral agencies and international organizations in the 1950s and 1960s. Latin Americans were increasingly dismayed by the heavy-handed yet ineffective, or even malevolent, role of the US government, multilateral agencies such as the IMF and multinational corporations. Tensions between North and South were building. By the mid-1960s even international relations scholars began to recognize this tension. A special 1965 issue of International Organization commemorating the UN Charter’s twentieth anniversary includes an article on economic development that notes the following with regard to ‘the difference between North and South views on development’:
Less developed countries (LDCs) want more international aid and favorable trade policies, while the north imposes conditions saying the south must deliver stable governments and fair treatment of foreign direct investment. While the south focuses on protecting infant industry … the north emphasizes agricultural efficiency. (Blough, 1965: 565)
Although dependency literature had not yet received attention by mainstream economists or political scientists, scattered English-language articles appeared that complemented the largely non-English dependency literature. One director of international studies at a US university picked up the southern criticism of international development agencies. ‘International institutions,’ he wrote, ‘have been built up for many reasons other than development, and nations pursue their development activities to only a minor extent through international institutions’ (1968: 3). There, Millikan was simply reflecting what LDC leaders had been arguing for several years. GATT, for example, focused so heavily on advanced industrial countries that developing country leaders pushed for a separate forum, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, in which to pursue their trade concerns.
Against a backdrop of rising criticism for international organizations and the Bretton Woods monetary system’s is demise, both the dependency and transnational relations frameworks pointed attention to international economic processes and their influence on politics. But these two approaches differed in their relationship to modernization theory. The literature on transnationalism grew more or less naturally from the modernization approach. Growing transnational connections propelled modernization. Modern nations were transnational nations. Edward Morse, a leading author in this school, argued that, ‘Modern societies are interdependent ones … All modern societies in interdependent situations acquire certain common political characteristics such as strong welfare pressures, bureaucratization …’ International economic relations were salutary for developing nations.
The dependency framework broke explicitly with modernization theory. Dependency theory argued that developing countries had much to lose and little to gain from furthering international economic relations. Another issue for leading dependency theorist Cardoso was modernization theory’s ahistorical, mechanical view of development (Cardoso and Faletto, 1979: 173).
Dependency literature is notoriously diverse. Early dependency literature is typically considered overly focused on the (negative) consequences of international economic integration while later literature, of which Cardoso, Evans and O’Donnell are leading examples, is more nuanced. This later variant of dependency theory diverged from early development paradigms (economic development, modernization) and the transnationalism literature in an important way. It included a relatively balanced consideration of internal and external influences on the state and political development. Caporaso’s comment about traditional development literature could also be applied to international relations until the incorporation of dependency ideas, ‘… theory has had a tendency to offer one-sided interpretations of the sources of development–showing a blind spot to either internal or external factors. While other studies focus primarily on domestic causes of development, dependency focuses on internal and external forces (including their interactions)’ (Caporaso, 1978: 613).
Caporaso notes how big a break the later dependency theory is with past theories of development. ‘In terms of its intellectual genealogy, evolutionary coherence, working assumptions, research programs, and policy goals it stands on its own,’ Caporaso wrote (1978: 613). He calls dependency theory ‘a qualitatively new departure,’ closer to the Gerscenkronian comparative political economy tradition than any other. Based on study of Germany, Russia and other countries, Gerschenkron (1963) concluded that a country’s relative international development status determined the extent of state involvement in the economy. A government that deemed its country backward relative to others in the world intervened to push the economy ahead as fast as possible. According to Caporaso (1978: 614), Cardoso and Faletto’s ‘primary task is to show how foreign capital interacts with domestic society to produce different alliances of social groups, and, in turn, how these alliances attempt to use the state to further their own interests.’ ‘To the extent that dependencia theorists pay attention to internal forces … and the Gershcenkronians stress external ones, the boundary between the two camps disintegrates’ (Gourevitch, 1978: 891).
The dependency and transnationalism literatures share some important similarities. They both emphasize non-state actors and the role of international markets in politics. They both combine international economics and political science and look for explanations of the change in national political economies. Dependency theory certainly had an explicitly normative thrust and Keohane and Nye, at least, were more explicitly normative than students of international organization had been previously. But they differed in important ways also. Dependency broke openly with modernization theory while transnationalism and interdependence did not. At issue were two things: whether international economic relations played a positive role for developing countries and if positivist methodology was appropriate to political economy. As the two literatures evolved over time they diverged further. The interdependence literature remained focused on international relations while dependency’s descen-dents emphasized the interaction between international market forces and domestic political economy. Transnationalism gave way to an emphasis on international regimes, their origins, rise and fall, and impact on national foreign policy while the dependency literature continued to search for patterns in the interaction of international and domestic political economy.
Hidden Continuity: Dependency Ideas and International Political Economy in the 1980s
Dependency had its hearing in English-language international relations journals and faded quickly from the mainstream. Cardoso and Faletto’s 1967 book was not translated and published in English until 1979, but International Organization published a special issue on dependency theory in 1978. This followed an English-language generalist introduction to dependency theory by Osvaldo Sunkel in Foreign Affairs in 1972. Prior to this journal issue there was one English-language edited volume including pieces by dependentistas and a growing analysis of Canadian dependency, but relatively little discussion of dependency theory in the mainstream political science forum. Given this limited airing, it is odd to read Gilpin’s statement in 1975 that dependencia ‘has now become legend’ (1975: 40).
An opportunity for cross-fertilization between development studies and international relations was lost in the late 1970s as the world and academics struggled to understand the post-Bretton Woods international monetary system and its implications for national economies. Keohane’s 1978 review of the McCracken Report hints at the ‘potential for a general theory of the interaction of international economic forces and domestic politics’ (Casaburi, 1993). In reviewing the McCracken Report, Keohane is impressed by its emphasis on how ‘[T]he internationalization of capital, as reflected in the rapid growth of international financial markets …’ led to a situation in which international markets took over functions previously under the preview of government authorities. ‘Dependence of governments,’ continues Keohane in a strikingly dependentista vein, ‘on private financial markets–which is to a great extent the result of increases in oil prices–creates additional pressures for conservative economic policies that are deferential to the interests of capital’ (1978: 120). Had the gap between Atlanticists and dependentistas been narrower, this statement could have been read as an invitation to use the rudimentary analytical tools of dependency theory to evaluate a loss of government autonomy to international economic forces. Such an endeavor, while new to Keohane and his colleagues, was old hat for the likes of Cardoso and Faletto.
Although several strands of dependency literature were pursued aggressively by successful mainstream political scientists, including Katzenstein, Gourevitch and many of their students, these authors did not emphasize the intellectual continuity between their work and that of the dependency scholars. Because or in spite of becoming a legend in their own time, dependency ideas were subsumed in an influential literature focused on the interaction of international markets with domestic structures.
Katzenstein’s (1985) careful study of small states in world markets analyses industrial policy in diminutive European states. He understands national economic policy, particularly industrial strategy, as the outcome of national élites’ attempts to meet structural change in the world economy (1985: 23). His conclusion summarizes the argument that small European states’ policies are profoundly affected by ‘historically shaped domestic structures and the pressures of the world economy’ (1985: 207). This overall approach bears a striking similarity to how Cardoso sets up his investigation of Latin American political economy. Indeed Katzenstein suggests one could compare small European states and developing countries using the framework he outlines (1985: 203). Because the pressures of world markets are more intense for developing countries, Katzenstein speculates, they tended to adopt even stronger forms of central government than the strong corporatist structures of the small European states. In fact, this is similar to O’Donnell’s (1973) argument about the emergence of bureaucratic authoritarian regimes in Latin America. Cameron (1978) narrows the argument considerably so he can test it quantitatively. He discovers that for a set of advanced industrial countries, the more trade-open an economy, the higher government expenditure.
Of five categories of theory, Gourevitch’s book on policy choice in times of international economic crisis gives ‘pride of place to explanation based on the international economic situation’ (1986: 66). Gourevitch cites dependency work and finds affinity with what he calls the ‘weak’ form, by which he means the later, more nuanced dependency ideas typified by Cardoso and Faletto. The key for Gourevitch is that early dependency does not allow for national choice; the international system so tightly shapes development trajectories that states do not have any choice regarding economic policy. But, as Gourevitch himself notes, it is not hard to find fault with the most sweeping version of this argument. He does find harmony with ‘the line of reasoning based on the study of development patterns’ and organizes his historical study by asking ‘how and through what mechanisms … the international system shapes domestic politics’ (1986: 64–5). This was a more or less direct extension of work second-wave dependency theorists had begun two decades earlier.
Dependency also found a peculiar affirmation in the work of another great international political economist of the 1980s. ‘A dependency orientation can be used to supplement … arguments that have been put forth by conventional analysts …’ states Krasner. ‘The penetration of domestic structures emphasized by dependency theory thus aggravates the difficulties of adjustment already imposed on central political institutions in developing countries by the rigidity of their own domestic social structures’ (1985: 44). Although Krasner suggests complementarities between dependency theory and ‘conventional’ analysis, this is not the main thrust of his book. For him dependency ideas are an explanatory variable. As an ideology they help explain the ability of Third World states to create or sustain international regimes that shift from market-oriented to administrative forms of resource allocation. For Krasner dependency ideas helped inform the Third World’s critique of First World foreign economic policy. They also helped diverse nations of the Third World unify. Dependency was a movement of thought, states Krasner, ‘the subjective complement to the objective conditions of domestic and international weakness’ (1985: 90). Krasner depicts the dependency framework as an ideology that added fuel to the fire of conflict in North–South relations but says explicitly that dependency ideas are not ‘social analysis’ (1985: 85).
Social analysis by the late 1980s was increasingly oriented toward rational choice theory, a field dominated by economists. Dependency theory had been at once dismissed and enveloped in orthodox political economy. Katzenstein, Gourevitch and others paved the way for a generation of political scientists who mastered vast quantities of economics literature and whose studies of development were increasingly informed by both the neoclassical revival and game theory.
The Neoclassical Revival and the Role of the State in Development Theory
Krasner’s book Structural Conflict ‘exposed’ the role of the dependency ‘ideology’ in the developing countries’ international campaign against market allocation mechanisms. Debt crisis brought an abrupt end to this campaign in the 1980s. A host of imbalances in international capital markets in the 1970s gave way to a round robin of developing country defaults in the 1980s. Developing countries found themselves prostrate before the International Monetary Fund and other exponents of what was dubbed the ‘Washington Consensus’ on appropriate economic policy for developing countries. Where development economics, modernization and the dependency/transnational-ism/interdependence literature engaged in analysis that at least implicitly pointed to potential benefits of a ‘strong’ state, the Washington Consensus boiled down to ‘shrink the state’!
For the original development economists market mechanisms alone would not propel development. ‘Development economics concentrated,’ Wade notes,
on showing how the special circumstances of developing countries including low private saving, dependence on primary product exports, declining prices of exports in relation to imports, small internal markets, limited skills, few entrepreneurs adept at large-scale organization, and pervasive underemployment, required an even bigger role for the state than in the more developed countries. (1990: 8)
There was a central emphasis on the state in modernization theory as well. The transition from traditional society to modern nation required a technocratic bureaucracy. This and democracy were part of political development. Huntington took the focus on the state one step further, arguing that economic development required a strong state. And from this insight grew the ‘developmental state’ literature. This literature praised Japan’s ‘market-conforming’ state intervention (Johnson, 1982).
Dependency theory’s view of the state is more opaque. For many dependency thinkers developing countries’ international economic relations aggravated a propensity for ‘predatory’ state behavior. On the stunted path of modernization economic failures bred bureaucratic authoritarianism. But, to varying degrees, these strong states oversaw development, albeit the less-than-ideal version Evans (1979) called ‘dependent development’ and exemplified in the Brazilian case. The transnationalism/interdependence theorists saw increasing challenge but no less need for states capable of negotiating international rules to govern the growing global economy.
But neoclassical economists emphasized the damage wreaked by state intervention in the economy. They make odd bedfellows with dependency-inspired scholars, who also saw the state playing a perverse role in the economy. The difference between neoclassical views and those of dependency-inspired scholars is that for the dependentistas international economic circumstances accentuated the state’s negative impact (Frieden, 1981). The dependency theorist’s critique of the state was interdisciplinary and internationally contextualized where the neoclassical critique was not.
In any case, the state’s failures as direct producer and regulator were abundant by the late 1970s, not only in developing countries but developed ones as well. Keynes’s criticisms of the neoclassical paradigm held great sway in global economic leadership circles during the 1960s and 1970s. But the poor performance of so many national economies in the 1970s and seeming ineffectiveness of Keynesian policy tools paved the way for neoclassicism’s resurrection. Almost at the same time changes of government in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany brought to favor economic advisers preferring monetarist recipes for macroeconomic management and neoclassical microeconomists. The neoclassicists asserted that, with the exception of a very few instances of market failure, free competition and market mechanisms, in all countries and under all circumstances, would bring about a more optimal allocation of economic resources than a regulated economy with administrative control and central planning. The lemma was ‘get the prices right’ (i.e. allow the market to set prices) instead of get the policies right (Martinussen, 1997: 263). Several authors articulated the neoclassical view of development during the 1970s (Little et al., 1979) but the ‘changing of the guard’ or ‘counter-revolution’ did not occur until around 1980, when the World Bank, IMF and governments of major world powers thrust the neoclassical paradigm on the world stage. When a major debt crisis hit the developing countries in 1982, the IMF and World Bank were ready with a strong policy prescription based on the newly hegemonic neoclassical paradigm.
Anne Krueger, one of the leading neoclassical development scholars, delineated the government failures of the 1960s and 1970s. These include ‘exceptionally high-cost public sector enterprises, engaged in … economic activities not traditionally associated with the public sector’ such as distribution, manufacturing, banking and even tourism. Government investment was inefficient and wasteful, argued the neoclassicists (Krueger, 1990: 10). Pervasive controls on private sector activity were costly, with both investment and controls contributing to large government fiscal deficits. All together, these led to inflation and poor patterns of resource allocation and very low savings rates. Krueger also notes failures including poor maintenance of public infrastructure, exaggerated commitment to fixed exchange rates buttressed by exchange controls and import licenses, and government credit-rationing. The more state intervention, the greater the temptation for corruption, another highly visible example of government failure.
The so-called Washington Consensus was the prescription for these ills in developing countries. According to Williamson (1990) the consensus in ‘the political Washington’ of Congress and the executive branch and the ‘technocratic Washington’ of the international financial institutions, the Federal Reserve Board and thinktanks included ten policy instruments. Among these were: reduce fiscal deficits to roughly 2 per cent of GDP or less; redistribute public expenditure by eliminating subsidies but protect spending on education; health and efficient infrastructure projects; broaden the tax base; allow the market to determine interest and exchange rates; liberalize trade and foreign direct investment; privatize state-owned enterprises, deregulate and safeguard property rights.
The neoclassical view is narrow in a disciplinary sense yet universal in its claims. In stark contrast to development economics the neoclassicists saw little need for a separate theory of developing economies. Neoclassical economic principles could be applied universally. Fundamental assumptions about consumers’ utility maximization, producers’ profit seeking and the market’s central role determining the economic behavior of individuals, households and firms are applied indiscriminately across national contexts. The literature was obviously normative with clear policy prescriptions.
In the political science literature there was a concomitant focus on the international and domestic politics of economic reform. Although this literature was explicitly interdisciplinary, it was not normative. Scholars sought not to judge policies or outcomes but to explain the path of policy choice in developing countries. Why, how, when and where were international financial institutions successful in imposing these reforms in exchange for loans? Projects framed this way sometimes picked up directly on dependency theory ideas, although in more concrete and detailed fashion (Haggard, 1985). The government was an important intermediary in the reform process. Although the recommended reforms had broadened to include a number of institutional changes, by the 1990s one dominant strand of development literature encompassed economists and political scientists who explored how governments could overcome opposition to reform. Gradually post-dependency international political economy, as pursued in academia, gave way to a more universal, more rigorous approach relying on deductive analysis/quantitative empiricism.
Summarizing the Evolution of Development Studies through 1990
The pre-1990s history of development studies begins and ends with the hegemony of economists; neither the early development economists nor the neoclassicists pursued an interdisciplinary approach. In between the 1950s hegemony of the development economists and the 1990s predominance of the neoclassicists development studies were much more interdisciplinary. Modernization and dependency took an explicitly interdisciplinary tack only to fail in sustaining a coherent presence at the center of any discipline.
Through time, the field of development studies became more political. Separating modernization and dependency were clearly strong political differences reflecting the tensions and pressures of the Cold War. Modernization theory in some guises was explicitly anti-Communist. At minimum it was clearly biased toward a version of economic and political liberalism definitely modeled on the United States. In a sense the transnationalism literature extended the political liberalism of modernization theory to the international arena. Growth and development of international markets, in the view of the interdependence theorists, engendered liberal international governance procedures called regimes. Modernization and interdependence were, respectively, the domestic and international sides of the same liberal coin.
Integrated analysis of international circumstances and domestic politics or domestic political economy was not a goal of the interdependence literature. But this was the main analytical focus of ‘second-stage’ dependency theory. In the history of development studies dependency theory made the first attempts to bridge the divide between international and domestic political economy, to try to focus attention equally on both the international and domestic spheres. Generations of successful political scientists took up the torch, eclipsing dependency theory with new language, more quantitative empiricism/rigorous deductive thinking, but more political opacity. Meanwhile, regime theory remained concerned primarily with international relations but escaped intense criticism and slowly converged with a more rational positivist approach to political science.
Hand-in-hand with the rise of rational choice approaches came universalism, the notion that one set of fundamental principles applies to most situations. Over time development studies clearly became more universal. The development economists felt that less developed economies were qualitatively different from more developed ones and that only a distinct set of theoretical ideas would improve our understanding of these countries. Modernization theory was universal in its tenet that all countries were moving along the same path toward the Anglo-Saxon model. But modernization theory did pause to examine the characteristics of traditional society in contrast to modern nationhood. Post-dependency international political economy tended to share an intensely universalistic approach with the neoclassicists. For the neoclassicists and many rationalist political economists one set of basic principles about the interests and behavior of individuals, households and firms undergirds any and all social choice situations.
Differences across these literatures on such fundamental issues as universalism and their often interdisciplinary reach and normative content hindered continuity in development studies. None the less, two common themes stand out. These are the central importance of state behavior and the growing focus on the interaction of international circumstances and domestic political economy.
Development Studies at the Start of a New Millennium
Contemporary development studies operates in three different arenas that parallel different strands of international relations theory: the pragmatic-eclectic world of practitioner-oriented technical development training; the ideological and historicist area of postmodernist philosophizing; and the universal, interdisciplinary, rational positivist science of political economy. The pragmatic-eclectic approach, consistent with the realist international relations paradigm, predominates. The postmodernist approach draws strong links to constructivist international relations theory.
Three Strands of Development Studies
The eclectic, policy-oriented arena where scholars and practitioners explore issue-specific topics ranging from biodiversity to aids to ethnic conflict dominates the field of development studies in the early years of the new millennium. In this arena the literature does not linger over theoretical debates but focuses on challenges confronting developing countries and how to solve them. By nature this is a cross-disciplinary endeavor. It is not necessarily interdisciplinary; development studies programs typically draw in faculty from different departments across the university campus. These individuals may or may not combine disciplines in their own research and writing. For example, a public health project on transmissions of HIV via breastfeeding among rural Brazilian women might be oriented toward a public health and sociology or cultural anthropology audience. Alternatively it might be defined squarely within the field of epidemiology. A school of forestry or environmental studies project on deforestation in Brazil might be framed politically or fall strictly within the fields of biology/environmental science.
A second area of development studies is the postmodernist theoretical exercise seeking to evaluate ‘development as discourse.’ Cooper and Packard, co-editors of a seminal book in ‘postmodernist’ development studies, outline the battle lines drawn in contemporary development studies. The ‘postmodernists,’ they note, are wary of ‘imposing an undesired modernity,’ while ‘the people working in the trenches of development projects insist they do practical work … and that the problems of sickness and poverty which they address’ will not melt away under ‘sweeping evocations of community values’ (1997: 4). In defense of their postmodern position, Cooper and Packard argue that ‘all have something to gain by a more introspective, contingent view of the terrain ….’ Falling under this rubric is also ‘reflectivist’ political economy flourishing in Europe and inspired by Robert Cox (1987).
The third arena of development studies falls under the liberal appellation in international relations theory. Here are the rational-choice guided scholars, evaluating how everything from property rights to electoral laws and any imaginable ‘rule’ in between shapes behavior. This is a highly developed interdisciplinary field spanning political science and economics. These political economists make theoretically universal claims; work in this field was not originally applied but it is increasingly empirical. When these political economists look for empirical validation of their deductive models they do not necessarily turn to developing countries. For a long time rational choice theorists were more likely to seek empirical validation in OECD countries than any other group because data were available and reliable. Also in this third grouping of social science scholarship relevant to development studies are those political economists concerned with globalization. In this literature the hidden continuity with dependency/interdependence ideas continues.
Across these different arenas in both praxis and scholarship the less-than-perfect collaboration between those focused on international relations and on domestic circumstances continues. For the pragmatic development studies practitioner, international cooperation may be key to solving development problems but it may also be too utopian. For some in this field the lemma is ‘think global, act local.’ For the post-development theorists, global cooperation on development issues is hugely suspect. There are two trends in rationalist positivist political economy: one is for work to become more situationally specific while the other pursues ambitious questions about the interaction of international circumstances and domestic political economy very similar to those put on the table in the 1960s by dependency theorists. But with a few notable examples rational positivist political economists do not see themselves as students of development. Instead, they are looking for universal truths about the interaction of politics and economics across all nations.
Pragmatic, Eclectic Development Studies
This practitioner, policy-oriented definition of international development studies dominates, especially in university/college programs. Still, few universities or colleges offer degrees in development studies. Most existing development studies programs operate at the graduate training level and are professionally focused. European and Canadian universities and colleges boast a disproportionate number of international development programs compared with the United States. Slowly the number of higher education institutions offering degrees in development studies should increase, especially as developing countries improve their own college and university systems. But the United States may increasingly take a back seat in the global production of development scholars and practitioners.
Each of the many policy issues tackled under the rubric of development studies in its practitioner-oriented guise has its own complexity. Many, such as population studies, environmental studies and public health, are major fields in their own right. From an international relations perspective some of these international development issues may be more relevant than others. International action is needed to solve many of the issues central to development studies as a practitioner field. But it is more nearly a reality in some cases than in others. In the issue area of environmental protection, for example, there are (at least) three topics governed to varying degrees by international regimes. These are ozone layer protection, hazardous waste trading and biodiversity (Miller, 1995). Human rights and building effective democracy are important development themes that are less amenable to international discussion than environmental degradation, for example, because they raise the specter of foreign intervention more than discussions over ozone emissions. Labor migration and refugee treatment are international issues that also tend to become politicized, making international cooperation difficult. For example, Mexicans were frustrated that during the North American Free Trade negotiations the United States demanded Mexicans completely liberalize capital flows while labor flows remained blocked. Later the Mexican government recognized the huge Mexican population living illegally in the United States by allowing them to vote in Mexican elections while the US government continued to increase border control efforts. In another area, the health problems of developing countries are certainly global issues but international cooperation is building only slowly, partly because funding is short.
Gaps between OECD and non-OECD country endowments of technology and capital are a major world problem from a developing country perspective yet international cooperation on this issue is also a long way off. Although debt forgiveness reached the international agenda in the 1990s the criteria were stringent and the overall relief meager. Among the unorthodox economists explicitly or implicitly advocating a global extension of the Keynesian ideas that imbued early post-Second World War international relations, and early development theory, are loud calls for greater debt relief (Roodman, 2001). Streeton (2000) went a step further in the late 1990s, advocating a for-profit international trust that would recycle surpluses from heavily industrialized countries to less industrialized ones. Although a twenty-first-century upswell of global Keynesianism is possible, at the turn of the millennium it does not seem likely (Greider, 1997).
Many students and teachers in the practitioner-oriented arena of development are skeptical of international cooperation and quick to denounce an idealistic utopia. The more common lemma is ‘think globally, act locally.’ In this sense, international development studies may be increasingly concerned with issues such as urbanization that arise in parallel across many countries but are addressed in specific, local contexts. This is another sign that the less-than-perfect collaboration between scholars of international relations and development studies may persist.
Post-Structural (Anti-) Development Studies
This awkward phrase refers to a body of literature harshly critical of development studies. The main point of this literature is that ‘development is a disabling and archly Western discourse’ that ‘has brought disenchantment to many parts of the world’ (Corbridge, 1998: 138–9). Development studies has failed to deliver on its promises, contend the post-developmentalists, and we must therefore jettison its discourse. The lemma of this school might well be ‘development is the problem, not the solution.’
This strand of development studies stands in stark contrast to the practitioner-oriented development studies arena just analyzed. The notion of thinking globally is anathema to the post-develop-mentalists. For example, in Grass-Roots Post Modernism, Esteva and Prakash denounce the notion of human rights for its insensitivity to local ideas of justice, truth and fulfillment (1998: 137–8). Western discussions of human rights, they argue, are too individualistic. Post-development authors reject pragmatic development studies completely. They denounce universities for perpetuating the notion that we can train development technicians. The post-development scholars universally reject development as either a pragmatic or social scientific endeavor. According to one post-developmentalist, ‘development’ as it has been taught is the transformation of Western liberal thought into ‘a science for action’ (Gupta, 1998). Postmodern development literature takes issue with ‘Third World’ education projects; they are a form of cultural defoliation. Public health projects fail to recognize hybrid meanings of medicine (Pigg, 1997). Applied to developing countries, neoclassical economics is ‘planned poverty’ (Illich, 1997). The post-development remedy is ‘the simple life.’
Postmodern writing about development attracts many criticisms. First, as Corbridge points out, postmodern, reflectivist development draws unwittingly on the economic assumptions of dependency theory, particularly its early variant. In that literature international economic consort was evil and the remedy was isolation or only South–South intercourse. As early dependency theory did before it, postmodern-ization theory underestimates the costs of delinking from the world economy. Second, for all its effort to historically contextualize development studies as a field, post-development ignores important aspects of history in its effort to dismiss all that is modern and scientific. Life expectancy, for example, has risen dramatically for most of the world since the middle of the twentieth century. Third, postmodern research focuses on ideology in a purposive effort to downgrade the importance of material forces. Yet it is difficult in developing countries to ignore the weight of international capital markets on national, even sometimes local, circumstances. Fourth, among the ironies inherent in the post-development approach is that the social scientific method, particularly its emphasis on falsification, should teach humility rather than arrogant certainty. Postmodernists do the endeavor of development studies little service with their intense attack on other approaches. One comes away from reading this literature, writes one reviewer, ‘with the impression that liberal development professionals and their academic allies are worse than slumlords, car salesmen, property speculators or even lawyers!’ (Peet, 1997: 345).
Although this literature may seem extreme, it might continue to grow. It will find fuel in globalization protesters so increasingly evident since 1999 at world economic forums such as the World Trade Organization and Davos meetings. Its links to constructivist international relations theory will also draw interest.
Development Studies and Rational Positivist Political Economy
The postmodern critique sees little difference between development as a field of technical practitioners and development as the domain of political economists. While they may converge in important ways, there are crucial differences between development studies as a problem-solving field and the vestiges of development studies in contemporary, orthodox, political economy. In fact many political economists would not consider themselves part of the development studies field. But their scholarship often addresses the same questions asked decades earlier by development studies and their methods and models have broadened the neoclassical economic approach to comparative political economy and also heavily influenced the field of comparative politics. The defining characteristic of this literature is its epistemology. Epistemology identifies criteria for deciding ‘how we know what we know.’ Rational positivist political economy is, in the words of one of its leading practitioners, ‘guided almost exclusively by the cannons of … the Western Rationalist Tradition ….’ It uses, Krasner continues, ‘the standard epistemological methodology of the social sciences which … simply means stating a proposition and testing it against external evidence’ (1996: 108–9).
There are several strands of positivist political economy scholarship relevant for the future of development studies. Most fall into the category of ‘new’ or rationalist political economy according to Saint-Paul’s (2000) criteria. He defines ‘new’ political economy by two features. These are the effort to explain economic policy choices and the inclusion of political mechanisms. By a tighter definition, the ‘new political economy’ applies rational choice theory to the study of institutions, broadly defined. It shares an important intellectual heritage with neoclassical economics. Applied to developing countries this rational choice political economy, while stunningly universalistic, is at the same time increasingly situationally specific. In this latter way rational choice political economy applied to developing countries may be converging with area studies and even historicist international political economy.
Reviewed below is also a slightly different strand of political economy relevant to development studies in the early years of the new millennium and defined more by large sample empirical studies concerned with universal features of globalization. This work is typically either implicitly or explicitly consistent with the rational choice models central to the new political economy but employs mathematics for inductive empirical exercises more often than for deductive modeling exercises. This literature on the political economy of globalization asks many of the same questions asked by second-wave dependency theorists and 1970s and 1980s liberal international political economy. What is the weight of international economic competition on domestic politics? Does it engender a ‘race to the bottom’ in wages, regulatory standards, etc.? Does it tend to increase inequality across nations/within nations?
The rationalist political economy focuses on institutions defined as any formal or informal system of rules, procedures or norms guiding individual and group behavior. These institutions range from bureaucracies and markets to kinship systems and religions. Choice-theoretic political economy derives from the new institutional economics, cousin to the neoclassical approach exemplified in the development studies world by the Washington Consensus. The new institutional economics is, in turn, closely related to the theory of industrial organization born in 1937 with Ronald Coase’s inquiry into the existence of firms. The new political economy adds greater sensitivity to politics than is evident in the other literatures’ focus on imperfect information, property rights and transactions costs.
This body of scholarship first sought empirical confirmation in advanced industrial countries, probably to minimize data problems. But soon a handful of development studies specialists began to explore applications of choice-theoretic political economy to the countries they studied. In 1988 Bates published an edited collection that heralded the arrival of choice-theoretic political economy in the field of development. The title, ‘Toward a Political Economy of Development,’ is somewhat misleading because Bates admits he has purposefully failed to cover ‘established forms of political economy’ (1988: 2). The hallmarks of the new political economy he trumpets are familiar. He highlights use of economic reasoning to explain how political processes and institutions affect individuals’ choices and how these, in turn, shape development outcomes. Although this edited volume covered many countries and development issues, much of the early choice-theoretic work on developing countries focused on agriculture (Bates, 1981; Popkin, 1979).
This approach makes universal claims and is genuinely interdisciplinary. It is also, in Colin Leys words, ‘politically anaesthetized’ (1996b: 101). It can be applied to a vast multitude of issues and situations. These are tremendous strengths that are helping the literature flourish in the US university setting.
But the approach suffers several shortcomings, both generally and from a development studies perspective. First and foremost both theoretical progress and constructive critique emanate from political economists not directly concerned with development studies. Producers of the great works of new political economy are scholars searching for the limits of their models’ universality, with a focus on how much of the world their models can explain rather than what they cannot. Two works destined to be foundational textbooks for choice-theoretical political economy, Drazen’s Political Economy in Macroeconomics (2000) and Persson and Tabellini’s Political Economy: Explaining Economic Policy (2000), provide good examples. Students of developing countries will find much in these books to ‘consume’ and apply but they could not replace an eclectic, practitioner-oriented text such as Todaro’s Economic Development in the Third World (1989) as a guide to development studies issues.
Development studies scholars are not even well represented among those penning constructive critiques of rational choice theory. One early critique was that rational choice theorists employed scattered examples and ‘stylized facts’ to support their claims rather than systematic empirical investigation. Green and Shapiro developed this critique in an extensive, and soon canonized, review of rational choice literature (1994). But ironically their influential book does not mention the work of Bates or any other scholar who had applied rational choice theory to the study of development. In fact Bates and other rational choice-inspired development scholars may have been more immune to the Green/Shapiro criticism than most rational choice theorists. Their careful case studies may point the way of the future in rational choice development studies.
An emerging view within the rational choice school of development studies posits that the institutions operating to influence behavior and allocate resources may be unique to certain situations. The rational choice mode of inquiry may be best applied to intensive case studies of specific aspects of single countries. For example, Saint-Paul paints a picture of rationality in political economy as situationaly specific. Reforms, a common subject of rational choice development studies, are according to Saint-Paul ‘unique and in many cases they are the response to a crisis which is itself unique’ (2000: 917).
A related complaint about rational choice political economy is that ‘theory is well ahead of measurement’ (Saint-Paul, 2000: 919). Careful research of specific cases can help mitigate this problem. The future of development studies may see the convergence of traditional area studies approaches to comparative politics with rational choice applications. Payne (1998) also identifies potential for convergence between area studies and political economy but he focuses on the narrowing gap between ‘Coxian’ political economy and ‘Third World’ area studies. His is a weaker claim because Cox’s brand of international political economy and area studies are typically both historicist. My claim is stronger. It is that there is an increasingly historicist furture for rational choice scholarship that, without abandoning rationalist positivism, will partially converge with area studies.
A second strand of new political economy literature focuses on the political economy of globalization. This literature typically includes quantitative studies, of as large a number of cases as possible, designed to evaluate how globalization shapes the domestic political economy. The many questions arising under this rubric are extraordinarily germane to development studies at the beginning of the millennium. As with rational choice political economy, these studies aim to uncover universal phenomena. Their findings shed light on questions that have been a mainstay of development studies since the birth of dependency theory. But the impetus for this research agenda was not dependency theory’s unanswered questions. Scholars of advanced industrial countries rediscovered these questions as globalization engulfed their countries of interest. Does global economic integration force national governments to adopt similar economic policies? Is there room for social welfare in a global marketplace (Garett, 1998)? Does competition for economic resources in a global economy force a ‘race to the bottom’ in taxes, wages and regulatory standards (Fishlow and Parker, 1999)? Does this mean inequality will rise, either across or within nations (Quinn, 1997)? These are the central questions in literature on the political economy of globalization. They were central questions, in different form, to dependency theorists and they will continue to be central questions of development studies.
Unfortunately, literature on the political economy of globalization suffers from poor measurement and model specification. For example, findings about the impact of globalization on government spending by two leading international political economists differ. Rodrik (1998) draws a conclusion similar to that of Katzenstein and Cameron decades earlier, that trade openness and government spending are correlated. Garrett (1999) finds the opposite. They use different measures, data and specifications complicating efforts to draw conclusions about the contrasting results. Two very plausible hypotheses lie behind the differing results. First is the ‘compensation’ hypothesis following Katzenstein and arguing that trade exposure induces governments to spend money on programs that compensate for shocks emanating from global markets. Second is the ‘efficiency’ hypothesis claiming that internationally mobile capital will not locate in countries with interventionist governments, thus forcing policies to converge around minimal government spending. But proponents of each view fail to carefully specify and test the mechanisms whereby globalization either forces compensation or efficiency. Simmons and Elkins (2000) take a step forward in this regard by designing ways to test for different mechanisms of policy convergence. Of course, to focus on transmission mechanisms they trade away an opportunity to weigh in on the debate over the character and consequences of convergence. Notwithstanding its pitfalls, this field is wide open for research relevant to development studies and international political economy.
Orthodox international political economy scholars working in this vein at the beginning of the new millennium perpetuated their mentors’ mistakes. Somehow both generations saw development studies remain ghettoized outside the inner sanctum of US international relations, political science and economics. While the dependency theorists of the 1970s failed to see the relevance of their work for advanced industrial countries in the post-Bretton Woods era, early twenty-first-century development scholars champion their shared agenda with international relations scholars. They emphasize that many economic and political management problems in developing areas are problems for all states and areas of the world (Payne, 1998: 265). US international relations scholarship has an in-built bias against questions of development. By redefining development problems as global problems, maybe development scholars hope to be let in from the cold!
This hidden continuity and point of convergence around the interaction of economic globalization and national political economy highlights a central question for development studies and international relations. Development studies derived from the unusual protection afforded national economies by the Keynes-inspired Bretton Woods regime. As that regime degenerated, so did development studies. Now we must ask, how much ‘development’ is possible in an era of ever-growing international capital markets and mobility (Leys, 1996a: 56)?
Development studies has seen more than its share of paradigmatic shifts and changing emphases. In more interdisciplinary guises it has struggled to find an institutional anchor in discipline-bound universities. Even in its less interdisciplinary phases, particularly as development economics, development studies’ normative bias and rejection of universal economic theory helped push it to the margins of economics. Political discord and methodological wars hid continuity and stymied cross-fertilization between Third World and Atlanticist political economists, between development theory and international political economy, between US and European development scholars.
But the disciplines of political science and economics have made strides toward a literature which could provide a long-lived paradigm for development studies. To the extent that rationalist political economy moves toward intensive case studies illustrating the deductive logic of choice-theoretic analysis applied to developing countries, it offers a model that could fuel research on developing countries for decades. As choice-theoretic political economy finds application in intensive case studies reminiscent of traditional area studies scholarship in comparative politics, rational political economy’s universalism might even become more palatable to those scholars of development studies who reject the idea that any single set of theoretical principles could explain such a vast variety of circumstances. As first world scholars increasingly focus on the national dilemmas posed by globalization, perhaps communication across orthodox international relations and development studies will improve. But for a long time to come students of development are likely to feel they are consumers of someone else’s theory, that they are trespassing in disciplines were they don’t fully belong.
There is little hope for a resilient, coherent development studies literature that forms a universal theoretical backbone for burgeoning development studies programs. But we need not lament this. Those who want to give their lives over to fighting for a universal notion of physical well-being and justice are probably best served by eclecticism and diversity.