A Global Transition from Poverty to Prosperity?
Chapter 1: The Role of Theory and History in Explaining Modern Economic Development
1. The role of theory and history in explaining modern economic development The road to development is extremely complex, and the ultimate guide to that path must therefore be more complex than an arrow pointing confidently in one direction. (Lindauer and Pritchett 2002: 28) It is important to get the approach to the inception of modern economic development right. Eric Jones (2006: 37) has argued that, whereas by the principle of Ockham’s razor we should in any explanation avoid redundancy1, economic development is a complex phenomenon and this complexity cannot be ignored. Since the process is a complex one, any explanation is itself likely to be complex. This book is an exploration of that complexity. Experience shows that narrow explanations of modern economic development, in particular mono-causal explanations, are inadequate in identifying the determinants of that development. The first section of this chapter explores what is meant by modern economic development. In the second section there is a discussion of the various ways in which the challenge of explaining economic development has been met. The third section considers the three inputs required for a successful approach – narratives, theory and data, and introduces the comparative approach. The final section presents the problem as a ‘mystery’, rather than a ‘puzzle’. It indicates the nature of the questions to be addressed. The chapter concludes with a review of the content of the book. THE CHALLENGE The most important problems confronting the world today are a significant lack of economic development and the poverty...
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