Development Economics in the Department of Economics at the University of Manchester icon

Development Economics in the Department of Economics at the University of Manchester


Development Economics Research Group Discussion Paper

No. 01/03

Development Economics in the Department of Economics at the University of Manchester

P F Leeson* and F I Nixson**

* Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Economics 1962-1982. Director of

Development Studies 1978-1982.

** Professor of Development Economics in the School of Economic Studies

Correspondence address: Professor F.I. Nixson, School of Economic Studies, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK

We would like to thank Dr Jasmine Gideon for research assistance.

One hears the term “development economists” as if they were a race apart” (Dudley Seers, 1967, p.2)


As Meier (1984, p.3) has noted, the subject matter of development economics is among the oldest and the newest branches of economics. Classical economists, beginning with Adam Smith, were concerned with the causes of economic progress and sought to analyse the long-run process of economic change. In his contribution to the volume aptly entitled Pioneers in Development (Meier and Seers, eds, 1984), Lewis (1984, p.121) comments that what Smith referred to as “The Natural Progress of Opulence” is what today we would refer to as “development economics”.

As an academic discipline (or sub-discipline, depending on taste) however, development economics is only approximately 50 years old. As an academic discipline, it hardly existed prior to the 1950s and the teaching of development economics did not become widespread until the 1960s. By 1960, a great deal of what came to be regarded as characteristic of the theory of the sub-discipline – to be taught, defended or attacked – had already been produced (1). Right from the start, there was concern that orthodox static neo-classical economics was not suited to the problems of developing countries. Many development economists were of a Keynesian persuasion, had doubts about the free market and accepted the need for state planning with a high level of state expenditure plus overseas aid. The ethos generated by the Second World War was still influential. Many of the leaders of the anti-colonial movements, who in many cases became the first leaders of newly independent states, admired the Soviet Union for its opposition to Imperialism. Many of the “pioneers” of development economics explicitly strove to formulate a new economics relevant to the complex processes of political, economic and social change that, taken together, constituted “development”.

The break from orthodoxy, however, was very far from complete. Few development economists entirely rejected their (largely) neo-classical training. Many rigorously defended its relevance and questioned the models with which development economics was being constructed. There was no agreement on how to define development economics. Some fell back on the rather tepid judgement that “development economics is what development economists do” or even “development economics is what the governments of developing countries with which I agree/disagree do”. An influential survey article (Stern, 1989, p.597) published when perhaps development economics was at last recovering from a prolonged period of self-doubt and criticism, simply defined development economics as “…the use of economic analysis to understand the economies of poor or developing countries”.

More recently, Meier (2001) has attempted to argue that there were, in effect, two generations of development economists spanning the 50 years of its existence. The “first generation” (roughly 1950-1975) was visionary and self-confident and formulated grand models of development strategies which, as noted above, required extensive government involvement in development programming or planning. The “second generation” (1975 – present) he describes as “…almost moralistic, dedicated to a somber [sic] realism grounded on fundamental principles of neoclassical economics” (Meier, 2001, p.17). From this perspective, poor countries were poor and remained poor because of inappropriate and damaging government policies. Markets, prices and incentives became of central concern in policy-making. Toye (1987) aptly refers to this development as the “neo-classical counter-revolution”. (2)

While acknowledging the temptation to categorise development thinking thus, it is our view that it is essentially misleading, for at least three reasons. First, the period of the “first generation” witnessed a massive outpouring of applied, empirical work, alongside the publication of grand theories. Development economists working in both pre- and post-independence Sub-Saharan African economies, for example, were responsible for the development of systems of national accounts, input-output tables, agricultural and industrial surveys and foreign trade statistics, to name but a few of their activities. In other words, a very large part of the work of this period was applied and policy-focused. Second, many of the concerns of the “second generation” can be found in the writings of “first generation” development economists (the concern with the efficiency and competitiveness of import-substituting industries, for example (3)). Furthermore, many of what might be called “third generation” issues are to be found, but rarely acknowledged, in the work of “first generation” economists (the importance of income distribution, the role of institutions, the importance of knowledge in the development process – see Lewis, 1955).

The third reason takes us well beyond the scope of the present article but requires brief mention. The 1950s witnessed the evolution of Latin American structuralism as a major school of development economics, explicitly anti-neo-classical and with an emphasis on the “…specificity of the peripheral countries and the insistence that new theories were required to explain their different structures, dynamics and realities” (Kay, 1989, p.4). The 1950s and 1960s also saw the emergence of neo-Marxist theories of development (Baran, 1952; 1957; Gunder Frank, 1967) and dependency theory (Cardoso, 1972; Cardoso and Faletto, 1969; 1979). The 1970s and 1980s enjoyed a “classical Marxist” resurgence (Warren, 1980) and the continued development of structuralist and neo-structuralist thinking. That this work is largely ignored in largely North American surveys of development economics (surprisingly so in the case of Meier, 2001, but less surprisingly in the case of other writers, for example Easterly, 2001) attests in part to the continuing importance of ideology in economics. The main point to be made, however, is that development economics is a broad church, characterised by competing paradigms (Hunt, 1989) and difficult to compartmentalise.

The objective of this paper is to focus on the evolution of development economics, both as an academic discipline and as a subject taught at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, at the University of Manchester, from approximately the early-1950s onwards. It is not a history or survey of development economics per se but concentrates rather on the richness and variety of the contributions made by a number of eminent economists whilst they were in the Department of Economics (since 1993, the School of Economic Studies), to both the development of theory and to empirical analysis and to policy prescription, and to the teaching of development economics. Only a limited account is given of the work of these economists once they were no longer in Manchester.


The Cast: Development Economists at Manchester

Of the economists discussed in this section, three could be unambiguously described as “pioneers” or founders of the discipline, namely W Arthur Lewis, Hans Singer and Kurt Martin (Mandelbaum). Two other eminent economists, Harry Johnson and Alan Prest, made significant contributions although they were not primarily development economists. John Mars and John Knapp were of particular importance for the teaching of development economics and the evolution of postgraduate programmes in development economics. (4).

The most eminent of Manchester’s development economists was undoubtedly W Arthur Lewis (1915 – 1991). Lewis was born in St. Lucia, studied and lectured at the London School of Economics and was appointed to the Stanley Jevons Chair of Political Economy in 1948, which he held until 1958. He then moved to become Principal, University College of the West Indies (1959 –1962) and subsequently Vice –Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (1962 – 1963). Lewis was knighted in 1963 and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1979.

During his period in Manchester, Lewis wrote and published in ^ The Manchester School (1954) what was to become probably the single most influential article in the history of development economics, “Economic Development with Unlimited Supplies of Labour”. Lewis drew on the historical experience of Western industrialised countries and on the ideas of the classical economists to derive a very general picture of the development process. A “capitalist” sector develops by drawing labour from a non-capitalist “subsistence” sector. Lewis argues that there are, at an early stage of development, “unlimited” supplies of labour in the subsistence economy so that the supply to the capitalist sector will exceed demand at a wage which can remain constant during a prolonged phase of labour transfer. (5)

In 1955, Lewis published ^ The Theory of Economic Growth. It could be argued that this publication was noted with respect but played little further part in the evolution of development economics. Lewis notes in the Preface (1955, p.5) that the purpose of the book is “…to try to provide an appropriate framework for studying economic development”, driven by a combination of “curiosity and of practical need”. Ingham (1991) notes the policy-making perspective in Lewis’s approach to economic history, and also refers to two major reports (on the British West Indies (1950) and the Gold Coast (1953)) which “…came to be identified closely with Lewis as offering a distinctive development strategy” (Ingham, 1991, p.532). (6)

It is not clear why ^ The Theory of Economic Growth had less of a long-term impact than might have been anticipated. It is a discursive work with no formal (mathematical) analysis, which would make it unattractive to both past and contemporary growth theorists, and Lewis’s work in general was never favoured by orthodox economists. Nevertheless, its focus on understanding the nature of developing country societies and the process of social change and the role of government, as well as its concern with institutions and knowledge in the development process, gives it a contemporary resonance.

On the other hand, the publication of the book was followed by the emergence of more radical (neo-Marxist) theories of underdevelopment and development and for a time at least, Lewis’s work and policy prescriptions fell out of favour, especially in the Caribbean. His work was criticised by a younger generation of Caribbean political economists, in part centred around the so-called plantation school, although more recent evaluations of Lewis (Figueroa, 1991; 1993) have tended to redress the balance. (7)

Hans Singer (1910 - ), knighted in 1994, was born in the Rhineland, received his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1936 and took up his first academic post in Manchester in 1938, staying there until 1944. Singer’s eminence as a development economist came after he left Manchester (he became an influential pioneer of development policy in the UN apparatus), but as he himself notes (Singer, 1984, p.276) his interest in the problems of “depressed areas” in the United Kingdom, the concern with problems of unemployment (during his time at Manchester he published Unemployment and the Unemployed (1940)), the influence of Keynes (and, earlier, Joseph Schumpeter) and his admiration for the work of Sir William Beveridge, provided the foundations for his later work in development economics and he “…was certainly intellectually preconditioned to think in terms of different rules of the game applying to developing countries, and the idea of nonorthodox policies in relation to them” (Singer, 1984, p.277).

Like Lewis, it is almost impossible to exaggerate the contribution that Hans Singer has made to development theory and policy. His 1950 article in the ^ American Economic Review (“The Distribution of Gains between Borrowing and Lending Countries”) has entered the terminology of the literature as the “Singer-Prebisch” hypothesis (Raul Prebisch, the Argentine economist and first Director General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, developed similar ideas, hence the linkage of the two names). Indirectly, Singer’s legacy to development economics at Manchester has been a tradition of critical thought and a commitment to applied and policy-focused work, which is the hallmark of development economics in the majority of UK universities where the discipline continues to thrive.

Kurt Martin (Mandelbaum) (1904 - 1995) was respectively Senior Lecturer and Reader in International Economics over the period 1949 – 1967. Although not included as a “pioneer” in the Meier and Seers (eds. 1984) volume, Hans Singer (1996) has described him as one of the three great pioneers of early post-war development economics (along with Eugene Staley and Paul Rosenstein-Rodan), a reputation based on his book The Industrialisation of Backward Areas, published in 1945 (second edition published in 1955).

The main part of Martin’s (Mandelbaum’s) book is a numerical model of economic development in which it is assumed that in a poor and densely populated country or area, steps are taken to industrialise the economy. The effects of industrialisation on employment, the growth and structure of output, the volume and composition of exports and imports and capital requirements are then calculated. Singer (1996) argues that the book contains many of the themes that came to dominate early development economics, including an emphasis on vicious circles of poverty and underdevelopment, the key role of industrialisation, the key role of investment, an emphasis on full employment and the phenomenon of disguised rural unemployment. Leeson (1996, p.112) also notes that: “With its calculations of the need to mobilise savings, its anticipations of the subsequent use of input-output analysis, its stress on infrastructure, and its emphasis on the extent of disguised rural unemployment, this text became a major item in the founding literature of development economics”. We will return to the role of Kurt Martin in the context of teaching development economics in Manchester below.

Two other distinguished economists deserve mention, although neither was primarily a development economist. Harry G Johnson ( )was a Professor of Economic Theory in the Department of Economics between 1956-1959 and later wrote extensively about development policy from a largely orthodox perspective (Johnson, 1967). As such, he was hardly a friend of the discipline and would have been unlikely to have been sympathetic to the direction which the teaching of development economics took in Manchester had he remained there in the 1960s. (8)

Alan Prest (1919 – 1984) was Professor of Economics and Public Finance (1964-1968) and Stanley Jevons Professor of Political Economy (1968-1970). Relevant publications during this period included ^ Transport Economics in Developing Countries (1969). Prior to coming to Manchester, Prest had written extensively on developing countries, including War Economics of Primary Producing Countries (1948), The National Income of Nigeria, 1950-51 (with I G Stewart) (1953), Fiscal Survey of the British Caribbean (1957) and Public Finance in Under-Developed Countries (1962). Prest’s development-related work was clearly part of that “first generation” applied tradition that we referred to above.

Three other development economists deserve mention here. John Mars was Reader in Economics between 1949 and 1963 and Director of the Postgraduate Diploma in Economic Development 1962-1963. John Knapp was Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Economics between 1958 and 1977 and co-edited with Kurt Martin The Teaching of Development Economics (1967), of which more below. Martin Godfrey was Assistant Lecturer and Lecturer in Economics over the period 1964 to 1973 (the last two years spent in Kenya) and published extensively on surplus labour and rural-urban migration, culminating in Godfrey (1986).


The Teaching of Development Economics: A Manchester Conference, 1964

A conference on the teaching of development economics held in Manchester in April, 1964, attracted most of the well-known names in the profession who had an interest in development economics (in part the result of Kurt Martin’s extensive network of friends). The proceedings were published as Martin and Knapp (eds.) (1967). Participants included E E Hagen, H Myint, Dudley Seers, Paul Streeten, Thomas Balogh, Nicolas Kaldor, Ian Little, Joan Robinson, Colin Clark, Alex Nove, Phyllis Deane and Edith Penrose, among many other distinguished economists. Conference proceedings were broadly divided into two categories – the state of knowledge and teaching economic development.

The Conference was in part inspired by the seminal paper of Dudley SeersThe Limitations of the Special Case”, first published in 1963 and reprinted in the Conference Proceedings. The “special case” that Seers’s refers to is the developed market economy where what is assumed “…is an autonomous and flexible socio-economic structure, in which each human being responds individually to the material incentives offered, and which is subject to no formidable exogenous strains” (Seers, 1967, p.8). The “typical case”, in terms of its numerical dominance and share of global population, is the developing economy, largely pre-industrial and dependent on a structure of foreign trade, which involves selling primary products for manufactured goods. Seers’s argued that “The major inadequacies of conventional economics for those dealing with the typical case are that analysis focuses on the wrong factors, and the models do not fit at all closely the way in which non-industrial economies operate” (Seers, 1967, p.9).

This was a view shared by most, but not all, of the conference participants, and it raised issues which, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the neo-classical counter-revolution of the 1970s-1980s, are still of relevance to debates about economic development almost 40 years later. Of equal importance, however, was the note of pessimism that crept into the conference proceedings as development economists attempted to assess the state of the discipline and evaluate their ability to “solve” the problems of global poverty and inequality. The early optimism was beginning to evaporate although it was another decade before the “death” of development economics was announced (prematurely, as it turns out in retrospect) by a number of its leading practitioners (Seers, 1979; Streeten, 1979; Hirschman, 1981). (9)

In the conference itself, the discussion of the actual content of development economics, as presented in the textbooks, tended to get squeezed out. The sub-text was the (in)adequacy of orthodox neo-classical economics and at times one could be forgiven for wondering whether or not development economics really existed. Most critics, however, were unwilling to argue that orthodoxy should be dismissed altogether. For example, Nicholas Kaldor, a leading critic of the orthodoxy, whilst conceding “…the present inability of economists to provide explanations for variations in the wealth of nations “ and whilst associating himself with “…the more radical critics of the contents of academic texts on both general economics and on development economics”, nevertheless maintained “that one could not deny that “economics does something”’ (Kaldor’s oral contributions are summarised in the Introduction, p.xii).

By this time, textbooks, although rather airily dismissed at the conference, were appearing in larger numbers, as too were compilations of readings and annotated bibliographies (10) The conference was intended to reflect the fact that the teaching of development economics was becoming more widespread, both in the form of postgraduate special courses and, perhaps more commonly, as undergraduate options (11).


The Teaching of Development Economics in Manchester

Manchester was a pioneer in the teaching of development economics, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels (Meier, 2001, p. 40, notes that Arthur Lewis began lecturing on development economics in 1950), although the postgraduate programme did not commence until after Lewis had left Manchester. The Manchester postgraduate Diploma in Advanced Studies in Economic Development (later renamed the Postgraduate Diploma in Development Economics) was established in 1960 on the initiative and under the direction of John Mars. Its inception coincided with a large expansion in the graduate school in the Department of Economics which led initially to a considerable increase in the numbers of students writing MA and PhD theses, many of them from overseas, and soon afterwards to the establishment of the MA Econ awarded by coursework and a dissertation. A grant to the Faculty from the Ford Foundation permitted the creation of a Centre for Development Studies (of which more below), helped finance the 1964 conference and gave support to the post graduate Diploma for its first few years.

The Diploma in Economic Development (hereafter the DED) was originally a two- year programme designed for graduates, largely in economics or a related discipline, mainly from overseas countries and financed either by their governments or through UK aid funds. Overseas students were mainly on secondment from planning offices, central banks or universities. A minority were privately financed. During the 1960s whilst Manchester was still one of the limited number of UK universities offering postgraduate programmes in economic development, a small number of UK Diploma students were awarded Social Science Research Council grants. Later on, SSRC (subsequently the Economic and Social Research Council) awards were spread around more thinly, and such students had to finance themselves. During an era when official aid programmes were still expanding, many of these graduates found overseas employment.

As the MA Econ by coursework and dissertation became established, and development economics became a recognised optional course within the Masters programme, some of the more highly qualified overseas students were admitted directly to the Masters programme and many DED students gained entry on successful completion of the Diploma. For most students, the DED eventually became a one-year course, with a preliminary year in case of need. By the early-1970s, perhaps one-third of those obtaining the Diploma gained admission to the MA Econ the following year. Although the DED was always recognised as a postgraduate qualification in its own right, the wider spread and greater availability of Masters programmes increasingly meant that students wanted Masters degrees, and overseas funding agencies often insisted that students return with such qualifications. The numbers of students on the DED programme varied from year to year between 20 and 30, with perhaps 4 or 5 students coming from the UK, North America and Europe. The bulk of other overseas students came from perhaps 40 to 50 countries during the heyday of the DED.

As noted above, the 1964 conference devoted much of its attention to issues relating to the teaching of development economics. At issue was the perennial question of the balance that needed to be struck between teaching development economics as an academic discipline, similar to any other postgraduate course in economics, and development economics as training for employment in planning offices, etc. A related issue was the extent to which such courses should concentrate on sophisticated mathematical techniques, input-output analysis, linear programming and econometrics.

Martin (1967, p.143) noted that the DED was not regarded as a “…vocational training programme for planners”, but was more broadly based with the objective of providing a general education in economics relevant to developing countries. However, in its first years (until 1963) under the direction of John Mars, there was a high concentration on sophisticated analytical techniques in the DED curriculum (12). In time, realism, both in relation to the capabilities of the students and to the likelihood of planning ministries in developing countries being able to operate with sophisticated models, led to more modest aims in this respect. In his presentation to the 1964 conference, Kurt Martin, by then course director, placed emphasis on a “case studies” course and a “workshop”, in both of which students read essays and gave presentations on the economic problems of their own countries. This contrasted rather sharply with the practice recounted by L J Zimmerman from the Institute of Social Studies at The Hague (Netherlands) where a mythical developing country called “Utonia” was configured as the vehicle for planning exercises.

In practice the Manchester DED programme, as it became increasingly of one year duration, settled down to a menu of a compulsory core course, “The Theory and Policy of Economic Development” and a compulsory “Statistical Techniques for Development Planning”, plus two options chosen from a list including agricultural development, industrial development, case studies, transport economics, international trade and commercial policy and two planning courses. The latter covered respectively macroeconomic, physical and manpower planning issues, and micro project appraisal techniques. The technical expertise required was modest; for example, manpower planning touched on mathematical models but leaned more towards Arthur Lewis’s “down to earth” schemes (13). In addition, an elementary, non-examinable mathematics course was provided to assist students with, for example, the algebra of growth models. There was no central diktat as to the content of the courses, which thus reflected the predilections of individual lecturers. The core theory course did however adhere to the “structural” models, which had become characteristic of development economics at that stage of its own development.

Development economists, in order to retain their expertise and credibility, need to keep in touch with the “real world” on a regular basis through overseas travel for purposes of research and through their participation in advisory missions. Development economists in Manchester have always been a part of the Department of Economics with a role in mainstream teaching and other departmental activities. In principle, if not in practice, there is a tension between routine departmental responsibilities and fieldwork and other activities overseas. Manchester thus differed from those institutions, set up in the 1960s and 1970s, which had a specifically development focus, often had independent sources of finance, were able to engage extensively in overseas consultancy and provided intensive teaching courses, often of a short duration (14). Nevertheless, even given these constraints, staff at Manchester in this early period visited, or already had work experience in, a number of developing countries, including Iran, Ghana, Venezuela, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, India and Brazil. In addition, a substantial number of MA and PhD theses related to development were supervised.

The DED continued to recruit large numbers of students throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. Nevertheless Diploma programmes came under increasing pressure from greater competition within the university sector, both within the UK and overseas, as overseas students came to provide an increasingly important income stream. Aid budgets stagnated or fell and, as noted above, overseas students and their sponsors increasingly demanded Masters-level qualifications. The nature and the central concerns of the discipline were also changing, leading to a re-evaluation of what it was considered appropriate to teach students from developing countries who would return to their own countries to work as economists. We return to this point below.

In the academic year 1988-1989, Manchester introduced the MA Econ in Development Economics (since 2001, the MSc in Development Economics). The Postgraduate Diploma in Development Economics remains for those students who still require a two-year programme of study in order to obtain a Masters degree. Since its inception, more than 270 students have graduated from the Masters programme, making it one of the largest programmes of its kind in the UK.

The MSc in Development Economics aims to provide a thorough training in economic theory, both neo-classical and neo-structuralist, applied economics and quantitative methods of relevance to developing and transitional economies. The attempt is made to develop a critical understanding of orthodox, neo-structuralist and other heterodox approaches to the analysis of development and to allow students to explore the relationships between theory and practice, to test theories through the use of actual data sets and to improve their familiarity with standard econometric techniques and software packages.

The syllabus clearly differs in at least two respects from the approach adopted in the DED. First, more emphasis is placed on macroeconomic and microeconomic analysis, although the focus is not as formal as would be the case in a standard MSc in Economics. Macroeconomic policy analysis now occupies a key position in the programme, in part because of the more significant role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), through orthodox macroeconomic stabilisation programmes, in both developing and transitional economies. Economists working in these economies need to have a clear and critical understanding of the theoretical models which underpin both IMF and World Bank programmes (structural adjustment programmes in the case of the latter institution) and be able to evaluate programme outcomes. Issues relating to financial sector liberalisation, trade liberalisation and the role of the state are today of far greater importance, both from a theoretical and policy perspective, than was the case even twenty years ago.

From a microeconomic perspective, issues relating to the definition and measurement of poverty, income distribution, the new institutional economics, market and government failure and qualifications concerning the role of the state loom larger than previously.

Second, with respect to quantitative analysis, it is inevitable that greater emphasis is placed on standard econometric analysis, rather than “planning techniques”, although the latter have not completely disappeared from the syllabus. The increasing availability of large, cross-country data sets, means that there are more opportunities for quantitative analysis than was previously the case (although this should not be taken to mean that our understanding is any better!), and time-series data are increasingly available for many countries (although there is perhaps less awareness of issues of data quality and reliability than there was in the past).


Development Economics and Development Studies

Development is a multi-dimensional process of economic, political, social, institutional and cultural change and there is little dispute in the profession that the study of development requires a multi-disciplinary approach, or more ambitiously, an inter-disciplinary approach (15). But it is equally recognised that, for a variety of reasons, insufficient progress has been made in that direction. Manchester had a head start in this respect, with a Faculty structure, which, at least in principle encouraged multi-disciplinarity, building on the foundations of the BA Econ degree. The Faculty had members of staff interested in development in every department – sociology, social anthropology, government and public administration, agricultural economics and econometrics. The Department for Administrative Studies for Overseas Visiting Fellows (established in 1958 and renamed the Institute for Development Policy and Management in 1987), as the name implies, focused on administrative and management training and there were members of staff in both the Faculty of Education and the Departments of History and Theology with strong interests in development. When a count was made in the late-1970s, it was found that there were over 40 courses at postgraduate or undergraduate levels relevant to development being given within the Faculty.

A Centre for Development Studies, funded with Ford Foundation money, had been established in 1960 but it quickly foundered on departmental differences and lack of determined leadership. This was a period when the tide of departmental separatism was beginning to flow strongly, and, in retrospect, it can be seen that a major opportunity was lost both to consolidate and extend Manchester’s pioneering efforts in the study and teaching of development and to bring teaching, research and other development-related activities under one roof.

When in 1978 a return was made to the idea of a Faculty-wide structure, it was with the more modest aim of the establishment of an MA Econ in Development Studies. In 1982, after the retirement of the first Director of Development Studies, an International Centre for Development was established to administer the programme but it was poorly resourced and was abolished in 1996.The new MA Econ was based on the same structure as departmental MAs with four courses and a dissertation, but was taught and examined by members of staff from almost every department in the Faculty, and some outside the Faculty including IDPM, History and Theology (staff teaching on the programme included Peter Worsley, Hamza Alavi, Teodor Shanin. Dennis Austin, Bill Tordoff, Terrence Ranger, Trevor Ling, Richard Werbner and Peter Gatrell) Little success was achieved in developing interdisciplinary studies, but at the very least, the MA Econ in Development Studies resulted in disciplinary specialists talking to one another and exposed students to a wide range of development-related material from a variety of disciplinary perspectives (16). Given the high quality of many of the students graduating from this programme, it can be judged a success, even though the problems inherent in any multi-disciplinary programme, and the problems specific to development studies, have not been fully overcome.

Development Economics and Development Studies should complement one another. The Development Economist requires training in analytical and quantitative skills that the Development Studies specialist may lack. But the latter, at least in principle, has an appreciation of the complexity of the development process, and the recognition of the need for a multi-disciplinary approach, that many, more poorly trained, Development Economists may lack.


Post-1964: What Came Next?

Although not published until 1967, the Manchester Conference Proceedings came too early for, or failed to anticipate, a number of developments, both intellectual and in the real world, which have since dominated the development debate. We have already noted two intellectual developments – the neo-classical resurgence of the late-1960s – early-1970s, and the emergence of neo-Marxist and dependency theories, from the mid-1960s onwards, in North and Latin America and the influence that they had on development thinking elsewhere, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In the wider world of development, examples of planning failures multiplied, post-colonial states were seen to lack the capacities previously ascribed to them and waste and corruption became increasingly apparent. Experiments with varieties of Third World “socialisms” (Ghana, Tanzania, Egypt, to name a few) soon collapsed (to be followed, a decade or so later, by the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Eastern and Central European allies) or proved to be ineffective as development strategies. From the mid- to late-1960s onwards, the emergence of the rapidly growing, export-oriented economies of East and South East Asia (especially the original “Tiger” economies, namely the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore) seemed to contradict the central propositions of development economics and add weight to the neo-classical resurgence (17). This was part of the more general “neo-classical” revival, associated with the declining influence of Keynesianism. Many development economists felt themselves indeed beleaguered when this attack from the orthodox perspective was accompanied by attacks from the political left (often instigated by students) in the various forms of dependency theory which tended to deny the possibility of independent development for developing countries in a world dominated by the developed capitalist market economies.

The Thatcher-Reagan era of the early-1980s onwards intensified the atmosphere critical of “traditional” development economics. The rise of neo-liberalism with its anti-state rhetoric, the dominance of monetarist theory, the decline in official development assistance (to be made up by private capital flows), the influence of World Bank structural adjustment programmes from the early-1980s onwards, and the increasing importance of IMF stabilisation programmes in the aftermath of the debt crisis (triggered by Mexico in 1982), along with the eventual collapse of “planning” and “socialism”, were all powerful factors leading to an intellectual crisis in development economics.

At a more humdrum level, there had always been a beleaguered atmosphere in Departments of Economics where Development Economics was taught (although Manchester’s Department of Economics remained very diverse with a variety of heterodox views until the late-1990s). There was a tendency for mainstream economists to look down on Development Economists as being insufficiently rigorous, lacking in technical finesse, and offering a “soft” option. The language and cultural problems of overseas students were often insufficiently appreciated (although the fee income they generated was warmly welcomed!), as too were their specific educational and training needs.

In retrospect, this mild atmosphere of existing on sufferance might have been resisted more vigorously. It is an irony that as quantitative techniques have become increasingly sophisticated, the statistical services in many developing countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, have deteriorated. Little attention is nowadays given to issues relating to data quality and reliability. Likewise, as economic theory has become increasingly technically rigorous, many developing countries, again especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, are confronted with complex socio-economic and socio-political problems, an understanding of which requires more than a straightforward technical analysis and whose resolution requires more than a “simple” technical solution. A case can be made that advanced and sophisticated analytical techniques are of little use to economists grappling with real world problems of massive poverty and deprivation (we avoid the question as to their relevance elsewhere). What is needed is a better understanding of developing economy societies, the process of social change and the nature of the developing country state and its institutions. Lewis (1955) is possibly of more use in this respect than Lewis (1954) (Leeson, 1979). Perhaps rather than allowing the mainstream to urge greater rigour on Development Economics, Development Economists should have urged a concern with greater reality on the mainstream.


Concluding Comments

A study of modern theories of the state, both neo-liberal and Marxist, would have enabled Development Economics and Economists to have dealt better with neo-liberal criticisms of the 1980s. It would have been a useful corrective to the earlier theoretical mish-mash of views of a benevolent state endlessly implementing socially desirable policies, consistent with some normative definition of “development” (development as progress). Many, although by no means all, Development Economists attempted to resist the more extreme forms of neo-liberal policy, deregulation and privatisation introduced into Eastern and Central Europe, the Former Soviet Union and Mongolia in the 1990s (18).

Development Economists continue to argue that successful market economies cannot be called into existence by the simple hope that the market will create its own appropriate institutions, and have been prominent in insisting that there are many valid spheres for state action, that the unfettered market will not cater for the welfare of the poorest and that stabilisation, structural adjustment, trade liberalisation and privatisation, may impose heavy economic and social costs, along with perhaps more limited benefits (19).

Development Economists in Manchester, for good or for bad, were not swept off their feet by either blasts from the neo-liberal right nor the neo-Marxist left, but have preserved throughout an eclectic position which, although it recognises the importance of competing schools of thought, nevertheless retains a position at the centre of which remain the main tenets of structuralist theory. If there can be said to be a Manchester tradition of teaching and research in Development Economics, it is that which is inherited from the “pioneers” of the discipline and developed by their successors (20).


  1. By the beginning of the 1960s, students had available to them the Lewis model and some of the dual economy theorising which followed in its wake; the use for planning and for theory of the Harrod-Domar “fundamental equation of economic growth”; Rostow’s stage theory; Leibenstein’s “critical minimum effort” thesis; Rosenstein-Rodan’s “big push”; Scitovsky’s externalities; Hirschman’s linkages; Nurkse’s “hidden savings potential of disguised unemployment”; Leibenstein’s model of agricultural wages and productivity; Eckaus on factor proportions and the choice of technique; the Mahanalobis version of the Fel’dman model; Myrdal’s model of cumulative and circular causation; the trade pessimism of the Prebisch-Singer hypothesis; the arguments of Rosenstein-Rodan and others justifying development planning; the investment criteria debate (Galenson and Leibenstein, Sen, Dobb and others); balanced and unbalanced growth; arguments for and against import-substituting industrialisation; and more.

  2. Meier (2001, p.23 et seq.) argues that the “tasks” for the “New Generation” include issues relating to economic growth and income distribution, employment creation, understanding the sources of growth, the influence of institutions, the role of technology, social capital, the evolution of financial institutions, globalisation and the complementarity of state and market.

  3. Prebisch (1964) produced a major critique of import-substituting industrialisation, largely from a structuralist perspective.

  4. It should be noted that John Hicks was Stanley Jevons Professor of Political Economy and Cobden Lecturer from1938 to 1946 (see also note 6 below).

  5. A Special Issue of The Manchester School (1979) was published to mark the 25th anniversary of the publication of the Lewis model. It also coincided with the award of the Nobel Prize in Economics to Sir W Arthur Lewis. In a letter to Philip Leeson, Lewis noted that the basic work (leading to the award of the Nobel Prize) was all done in Manchester before 1956.

  6. Ingham (1991) notes that Lewis acknowledged his debt to Sir John Hicks and highlights the similarities between Lewis (1955) and Hicks’ Theory of Economic History (1969).

  7. Figueroa (1991; 1993) re-evaluates the role of Lewis as a development advisor. He argues that the underlying economic analysis cannot be faulted but that Lewis underestimated the social changes needed for a successful strategy of industrialisation and the demands that this would make on various social classes.

  8. He wrote that amongst the strands contributing to development theory was “the infiltration of ideas from Central Europe into the Anglo-Saxon tradition” which helped to generate a theory which is “projectionist, autarchist and centralist” and is “congenial to economic and political nationalism” thus helping to produce by its application “widespread economic waste and a general tendency for development programmes to produce disappointing results” (Johnson, 1967, pp.23-40). He would not easily have co-operated with a development economics staff, which included such Central Europeans as John Mars, Kurt Martin and John Knapp.

  9. We should note Seers’ seminal contribution (Seers, 1972) to the “growth versus development” debate, widely reprinted and discussed in Nixson, 1987, and Leeson and Nixson, 1988.Throughout the 1970s, there was an atmosphere of self-doubt, with development economists increasingly wondering about their usefulness. They beat their breasts as if they were personally responsible for the failures of development, in part a result, no doubt, of having exaggerated the importance of their advisory missions during the hey-day of planning and their mistakenly high opinion of the political will and technical competence of the developing country state and its institutions. Seers’ 1979 paper was sub-titled “Revisiting a Manchester Conference” (a contribution to a collection of papers in honour of Kurt Martin) (Seers. 1979).

  10. For example, Agarwala and Singh (1958); Meier (1964); Hazelwood (1954; 1959; 1964); Meier and Baldwin (1957).

  11. The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge set up Diploma or Certificate courses in the early-1960s. Meier (2001, p.40) notes that Lewis began lecturing on development economics at the University of Manchester in 1950. Kurt Martin was lecturing undergraduates on “Elements of Economic Development” in 1960.

  12. For instance, a recommended text was Tinbergen and Bos (1962).

  13. For example, Lewis (1966).

  14. Examples include the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, the School of Development Studies at the University of East Anglia, the Development and Project planning Centre at the University of Bradford (now Bradford International Development Centre) and the Department of Administrative Studies for Overseas Visiting Fellows at the University of Manchester (now IDPM).

  15. The importance of a multi-disciplinary approach had been recognised by Kurt Martin (1967, p.143) but he argued that the DED was not multi-disciplinary as “The so-called non-economic factors ought to come in at each stage of the argument, rather than discipline by discipline”.

  16. Leeson and Minogue (eds) (1988), with contributions from economics, political science, anthropology, sociology, history and public administration, became a core text. It is interesting to note that Kothari and Minogue (eds) (2002), fulfilling a similar role, contains no contribution by an economist.

  17. In actual fact, it makes far more sense to interpret the East Asian “miracle” in terms of the central concerns of traditional development economics – high rates of domestic savings and investment, an emphasis on the provision of health and education to the mass of the population, the importance of infrastructural facilities, a strong and efficient state with a focus on indicative planning and the creation of competitive, export oriented activities (the early Development Economists were indeed “export pessimists” but that does not mean that they did not recognise the importance of, and necessity for, the development of export-oriented industries).

  18. Manchester Development Economists have been closely involved in education and training in a number of “transitional” economies, including Vietnam and Mongolia. See Cook and Nixson, Eds., (1995); Nixson et al, Eds., (2000).

  19. These arguments form an important part of what is becoming referred to as the “Post-Washington Consensus”. Stiglitz (2002) is perhaps the most influential economist in this respect.

  20. Although beyond the scope of this study, the pioneering work of Elson (1991) is clearly a part of this tradition.


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