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date: 05 March 2021

Development: Institutional Perspectiveslocked

  • Malcolm FairbrotherMalcolm FairbrotherSchool of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol

Summary

There are three key literatures on the political economy of development that all emphasize the importance of institutions, but in different and somewhat contradictory ways. These literatures focus on developmental states, good governance, and political economic pathways. The developmental states literature is based largely on case studies of East Asian countries that have, since about 1950, largely “caught up” to the already developed nations in Europe, North America, and the Antipodes. The central conclusion of this literature has been that successful late development requires a competent, committed state bureaucracy, independent enough to be capable of imposing its will on domestic businesspeople, but also sufficiently connected to them so as to make good decisions about what will to impose. The literature focusing on good governance, based largely in economics, also sees state actions and characteristics as keys to positive development outcomes. But while the developmental states literature argues that states need to play an interventionist role in “governing” markets (including not infrequently restricting them), the good governance literature usually looks more favorably on free markets. Finally, research in the political economic pathways literature tends to examine much longer periods of time than the other two literatures, and typically emphasizes economic and political developmental outcomes as joint products of differences in the historical trajectories followed by different countries. The key explanatory variables for this literature are a country’s circumstances in the colonial period, and levels and types of social inequality.

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