Developments in Major Fields of Economics
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 8: Development economics
The history of development economics is as old as that of economics itself, with contributions ranging back to the mercantilists, the Physiocrats and the classical economists. However, the systematic and specialized study of the entire range of problems of lessdeveloped countries (LDCs) did not begin until just after World War II. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a brief overview of the evolution of the field of development economics by viewing this history in terms of four slightly overlapping phases and by drawing some general conclusions. However, given the early roots of the field, it will also provide a brief discussion of some relevant aspects of the contributions of earlier economists. The next section discusses the ideas of the precursors of development economics. The following sections discuss the four phases in the history of development economics. The final section concludes. As noted above, the study of economic development has a very long history, with economists analysing the development process and problems of countries which are now economically developed and occasionally writing about countries which are still economically underdeveloped. We may provide a sampling of these past contributions by examining three themes in the history of economic thought which are of particular relevance to modern development economics (see also Vaggi 2008 for further discussion and references).
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