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Chapter 5

IDSA01H3 Chapter 5: WEEK 5: HARRIS

International Development Studies
Course Code
Leslie Chan

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Development Theories
By: John Harris
From crisis in development theory to a new synthesis?
-Edwin Brett argues that by the 1990s development theory was in crisis, given the practical
failures of both structuralism and of liberalism, and the fact that many developing countries,
particularly in Africa, were experiencing violence and civil war
-Both the evidence of state failure in some parts of the world and the experience of the
failure of structural adjustment brought renewed attention to the role of the state
-The World Bank published a significant paper on good government in 1992, highlighting
the importance of transparency and accountability, as well as sound macro-economic and
public sector management
-This was followed by an issue of the annual World Development Report devoted to “The
State in a Changing World” (World Bank 1997)
-These publications reflected the recognition that the state could be “‘rolled back”—as the
neo-liberals had wished—only so far
-As the Bank said, “Development without an effective state is impossible . . . an effective
state—not a minimal one”, though it went on to say that the role of the state should be
facilitative rather than directive, and that it should complement markets rather than trying
to replace them
-This is what came to be called the “post-Washington Consensus” on the need for a
balance between the market and the state, recognizing that there are market failures as
well as state failures, and assigning a significant role in governance to civil society
-It is a consensus that is predicated on the view of the indispensability of liberal capitalism
- It has also become rather muddled up with the policy idea that it is possible for outsiders
to “build democracy” in other parts of the world, which has generally had poor and
sometimes disastrous results; and in its advocacy of the roles in civil society of voluntary
association and social capital, it has been found by some scholars to have the effect of
depoliticizing development by suggesting that there are technocratic solutions to what are
fundamentally political problems
-For Brett, however, it points the way towards what he sees as a renewal of development
theory that draws on the recognition of the need for institutional diversity, in a new
paradigm: “liberal institutional pluralism”
-Brett’s conception of a new synthesis that has renewed development theory rests on the
turn in economics and across the social sciences to the analysis of institutions, which
embraces both macro- and micro-levels of analysis
-“Institutions,” in this extensive literature, are understood as the rules, norms, and
conventions that must exist for social life to be possible, and which both constrain and
provide incentives for human action.
-The “macro” level of research—- includes that on the institutional conditions for successful
economic growth by such scholars as Douglass North (1990; and North et al. 2009), and
Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, and James Robinson, who find that “economic
institutions encouraging economic growth emerge when political institutions allocate power
to groups with interests in broad-based property rights enforcement, when they create
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