Continuing our Best Books series, here are our bloggers’ picks for the best books of the last decade on development. Read the full entry to see why they chose their picks. Please comment and suggest your own favorites.
One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions, and Economic Growth by Dani Rodrik
Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective by Ha-Joon Chang
23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development by Ananya Roy
Why Microfinance Doesn’t Work: The Destructive Rise of Local Neoliberalism by Milford Bateman
One hundred years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century by Donald Sassoon
Dani Rodrik. One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions, and Economic Growth. Princeton University Press, 2007.
“Neoclassical economists are known for their distrust of the state. It is a surprise, then, for a leading member of the club to come out in favor of the legitimacy of “national policy choices” and admit the utility of industrial policy. Dani Rodrik’s book thus marks a watershed in mainstream economic thinking about the role of the state in generating growth and development. Rodrik’s main argument is that good growth policies are always context specific, dependent on local knowledge, and implemented by conscious reform rather than happy accident. Laissez faire, accordingly, makes little sense as a general policy package. The world may be globalized, but political actors need to choose and act within that world to maximize their own communities’ prosperity– something that might involve a much greater role for the state than is often admitted in mainstream policy circles.”
Ha-Joon Chang. Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective. Anthem Press, 2000.
“Economists since David Ricardo have seen states that practice free trade (rather than trade controlled by the state) as the engine of development in the global economy. Ha-Joon Chang disagrees. He develops Friedrich List’s mercantilist idea that free trade between equally developed and differentially factored states may be welfare improving, but free trade between unequally developed states locks in the advantages of the more developed ones, thus “kicking away the ladder” from those beneath. Drawing on extensive data from the nineteenth century, Chang shows how the United States had the highest tariffs in the world during its period of exceptional growth; how the United Kingdom’s practice of free trade was selective at best; and how the much-trumpeted Cobden-Chevalier Treaty of 1860 effectively halted French industrialization for 50 years.”
Ha-Joon Chang. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. Bloomsbury Press, January 2011.
“A highly readable book that shatters all of the key economic myths of our time.”
Ananya Roy. Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development. Routledge Press, 2010.
Milford Bateman. Why Microfinance Doesn’t Work: The Destructive Rise of Local Neoliberalism. Zed Books, 2010.
“Two very interesting, highly critical examinations of microfinance. These books should give pause to those who embrace microfinance as the key to alleviating poverty and financial exclusion.”
Donald Sassoon. One hundred years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century. New York: The New Press, 1996.
“I was at first hesitant to name this book, because it was published in the late 1990s. I was only recently introduced to it by a friend, and in fact I am still reading it. But to my mind it is one of the most significant books of the past half-century, one that tells us a great deal about our current realities in many parts of the world.
It is a work of wide scope, majestic scholarship and insightful depth. It covers the variegated fortunes of the parties and movements of the Left in Western Europe through the course of the 20th century. In doing so it goes beyond history to capture many of our contemporary dilemmas: for example, the inability of progressive and Left forces to capture the public imagination during period in periods of severe economic crisis; the need for conceptual thinking and practice with respect to planning and socio-economic re-organisation to be accompanied also by thinking on the re-organisation of the state; the problems that Left forces face when they are either in government or supporting governments that still operate within the institutional and other constraints of capitalism; the tensions between national and international demands; the politics of gender equality within the Left; the grappling with issues of ecology and sustainable living patterns; and most of all, how to be relevant and effective in societies that are increasingly shaped by material considerations determined by corporate power.
I cannot recommend this book strongly enough, to anyone who is still interested in the broad project of moving to better, more egalitarian and creative societies.”