The Future of Development Economics

A stimulating symposium has concluded in Berlin, organised by the very able Svenja Flechtner (European University Flensburg), Jakob Hafele (University of Vienna), Martina Metzger (Institute for International Political Economy at the Berlin School of Economics and Law), Theresa Neef (Freie Universität Berlin).

The EAEPE "Developing Economics" symposium looked closely at the future of "Development Economics" which many critics and sympathisers alike agree requires substantial overhaul. Several themes deserve attention: narrow methods, pretentions of predictive science, lack of attention to phenomena and problem-solving.and a surprising and persistent dodging by economists of fundamental advances in their discipline in technological change.

On technological change, well, we have a commitment to this at TCLab especially because these provide the phenomena to assess the epistemological assumptions of the discipline, data and methods and their implications. It's perhaps no accident that technological change scholars tend to be foused on a range of methods, study industry phenomena to keep them honest, and engage in different ways with narrower and wider, more pluralist, and historical traditions.

In a keynote address, Smita Srinivas spoke about the Economics of Innovation and the opportunities it provides for moving devlopment economics forward, i.e. the economics of studying development processes at different scales, with close attention to the dynamics of technological change. The particular emphasis of the talk was on connecting cognitive and structural views with institutional approaches. 

Erik Reinert gave a keynote address on Stages of Development approaches, while Sanjaya Reddy addressed the audience on inequality indicators.

And finally, technological change at least in popular debate seems to point toward a determinist viewpoint on labour substitution, robots, layoffs and more. But the importance of a revitalised development economics is to draw on huge advances in evolutionary economics, institutional perspectives, and wider political economy. Are we sure we know what's happening around us? The Christian Science Monitor raises some questions.


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TCLab's new postdoctoral scholar Jose Ribiero and Smita Srinivas are building a program on how technological learning is manifested in three countries. We know that economic growth and concerns of employment are both linked to technological learning, but we have some hunches about why economic theory doesn't take us far enough in appreciating why the links between industry and agriculture manifest in particular ways.

A new chapter is out in a new book. Smita Srinivas (2018), “Evolutionary Demand, Innovation, and Development” in  D. Nathan, S. Sarkar, and M.  Tewari (Eds.) Development with Global Value Chains: Upgrading and Innovation in Asia, Cambridge University Press.


The Open University and the Science Policy Research Unit, Univ of Sussex, UK co-organized a vibrant workshop in February 2017 in Brighton, UK.

Smita Srinivas played a co-organizer role alongside the leads Prof. Maureen Mackintosh (Economics, IKD, Open University), and Prof. Joanna Chataway (S&T policy, SPRU)

The workshop drew participants from the UK, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and India.