Abstract

Development economics has struggled to understand the conditions of Africa and Africans. However, the nature of this critique, the alternative to development economics, and the challenges of the existing revisionism of today have not, as yet, received the attention of political economists. As this body of work is relevant to the current debates on Africa’s underdevelopment, and development economics more generally, the present article attempts to fill this gap. The article accepts the classic criticisms that mainstream development economics does not provide an effective approach to studying inequality, that it is Western-centric in both its concepts and vision of the good society, and that these analytical problems have contributed to worsening social conditions in Africa because they have shaped African development policy. However, it departs from the existing approaches of locating these problems in the realm of ideas and looks to the nexus between ideas, materialism, and history. So, the widespread view that it is the reliance on problematic concepts and on unreliable official statistics that constitute the sources of these problems is questioned. Instead, the article extends the premise to both the ontology and the central methodology of mainstream development economics. It cautions against the preference for an indigenous economics as panacea and questions the revisionism of today—that is, the push for a marriage between anthropology and economics. Although clearly much stronger on analyzing entire economic systems and, indeed, on addressing some of the classical problems in development economics, the alternatives do not succeed in probing intergroup inequalities. The development of the emergent field of stratification economics by black political economists is defended as a more fruitful alternative.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Japanese political economy
Volume44
Issue number1-4
Pages (from-to)59-81
Number of pages23
ISSN2329-194X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 5203 Development Studies

Cite this

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title = "Critique of development economics",
abstract = "Development economics has struggled to understand the conditions of Africa and Africans. However, the nature of this critique, the alternative to development economics, and the challenges of the existing revisionism of today have not, as yet, received the attention of political economists. As this body of work is relevant to the current debates on Africa’s underdevelopment, and development economics more generally, the present article attempts to fill this gap. The article accepts the classic criticisms that mainstream development economics does not provide an effective approach to studying inequality, that it is Western-centric in both its concepts and vision of the good society, and that these analytical problems have contributed to worsening social conditions in Africa because they have shaped African development policy. However, it departs from the existing approaches of locating these problems in the realm of ideas and looks to the nexus between ideas, materialism, and history. So, the widespread view that it is the reliance on problematic concepts and on unreliable official statistics that constitute the sources of these problems is questioned. Instead, the article extends the premise to both the ontology and the central methodology of mainstream development economics. It cautions against the preference for an indigenous economics as panacea and questions the revisionism of today—that is, the push for a marriage between anthropology and economics. Although clearly much stronger on analyzing entire economic systems and, indeed, on addressing some of the classical problems in development economics, the alternatives do not succeed in probing intergroup inequalities. The development of the emergent field of stratification economics by black political economists is defended as a more fruitful alternative.",
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Critique of development economics. / Obeng-Odoom, Franklin.

In: The Japanese political economy, Vol. 44, No. 1-4, 14.06.2019, p. 59-81.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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