ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Long View of Developing Countries in the World Economy

Catch Up: Developing Countries in the World Economy by Deepak Nayyar (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), 2014; pp xi + 221, Rs 695.

One of the enduring questions in modern social science is about the fate of late-developing countries. Will they succeed in the struggle to modernise their economies and catch up with the more advanced countries, or are they destined to fall ever further behind? The answers to this question have been many and varied. In the early decades following the second world war, there was a general optimism that if they followed the appropriate policy guidelines and encouraged local entrepreneurship, the late-developers could follow in the path of their predecessors.

Of course, the actual guidelines would be different if you hewed to modernisation theory, as opposed to structuralist development economics. But the sense of optimism was common to both. By the late 1960s, a far more pessimistic prognosis could be found in the emergence of dependency theory and world-systems, both of which viewed underdevelopment to be the more normal state of affairs in the Global South, and, indeed, took it to be the necessary corollary to economic growth in the advanced world. The rise of the newly industrialised countries (NICs), and now the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), has once again generated a sense of optimism towards the possibility of development, albeit of a more measured character than in the 1950s. Even if all of the South is not likely to develop, it is undoubtedly the case that a small number of countries have experienced a genuine success in their efforts at moving up the economic ladder. So what are we to make of this history?

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