Economic Development in Latin America and the Methodenstreit: Lessons from History of Thought

Bracarense, Natália
March 2013
Journal of Economic Issues (M.E. Sharpe Inc.);Mar2013, Vol. 47 Issue 1, p113
Academic Journal
Latin America has experimented with two development strategies over the last two centuries. The first is "outward-oriented" development based on exports of primary commodities, while the second relies on domestic industrialization from within. A consensus that both models failed to achieve sustainable development in Latin America opened space for rethinking development theory and policy at the beginning of twenty-first century. Nevertheless, the debate lacks the understanding that history is non-linear, which explains why peripheral countries are emulating core countries to promote development. This paper argues that the recurrent inadequacy of development theory is due in part to the dichotomy between history and economics that emerged with the Methodenstreit - a debate about what method was most adequate to undertake social analyses. Development theory presupposes historical specificity, its raison d'etre being the belief that underdeveloped economies function differently than their developed counterparts. A meaningful theory of development relies on a shift from abstractions based on human nature to historically grounded principles.


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