Essays in Honour of A.P. Thirlwall
Edited by Philip Arestis, John S.L. McCombie and Roger Vickerman
Chapter 14: The Influence of Keynes on Development Economics
John Toye INTRODUCTION Development economics, in its modern form, was struggling to be born just as John Maynard Keynes, ill and exhausted by immense public responsibilities, approached his premature death in April 1946. This fact alone meant that Keynes himself exercised no direct influence on modern development economics. His significance for the new sub-discipline was nevertheless considerable, but it was wholly derived from indirect sources. The first of these sources was the influence that he had exercised on the thinking of other economists who, after his death, did participate in the creation of development economics. Economists who fit this description included Joan Robinson and Austin Robinson: they were Keynes’s disciples and they contributed, in their very contrasting styles, to the early construction of development economics (Harcourt, 1998: 367–77). James Meade also falls into this category. So does Hans Singer, who worked on employment issues before coming to development policy in the late 1940s (Singer, 1938 and 1939). The second source of Keynes’s influence was through his posthumous legend. The Keynes legend tended to affect especially younger economists who had not known Keynes personally, but nevertheless nurtured a view of him as a towering economist and a powerful role model of some sort – even when they rejected particular economic doctrines of his. Ironically, what Keynes actually wrote about economic development failed to shape the sub-discipline at its birth, being either inaccessible or neglected. It has taken at least a generation since Keynes’s death to construct the more detailed and nuanced...
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