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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