Like the hems of skirts, mainstream development thinking is subject to ups and downs: dominant ideas are overthrown and restored after a while. Examples are the importance assigned to domestic and external factors as hindrances to development, the roles of the state and the market, monoeconomics versus development economics, cyclical phases of development optimism and development pessimism. One may identify further cycles in the history of development economics, such as between inward- and outward-looking policies, or trade and aid. These are just some illustrations of the influence of fashion and the political environment on scientific thinking. H.W. Singer (1989, p.2) concluded: ‘our approach to development problems and lessons which we learn is simply the result of changing fashions and ideologies. It was the Keynesian consensus 40 years ago, it is now the neoliberal tide of today, and goodness knows what tomorrow’. It might be useful to keep these changes in mind when evaluating dominant currents in development studies or social sciences at large. But one must also not forget that problems remain while emphases change. Development is both hampered by external conditions blocking it, and by internal blocks. The problem is that a double barrier must be overcome. It is thus necessary to analyse both sets of blocks. DOMESTIC AND EXTERNAL DEVELOPMENT BLOCKS In the pioneer days of modern development thinking international market forces were perceived by most analysts as so benevolent and conducive to development that blockages could only originate within so-called ‘backward countries’. Like runners simultaneously racing away...
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