Back to development
Jaime Ornelas Delgado*
“We face a complex challenge if we are to
build an appropriate mindset in Latin America”
Edgardo Lander
(2004: 179)
Fecha de recepción: 20 de enero de 2011. Fecha de aceptación: 23 de agosto de 2011
Abstract

The term development, as used to illustrate economic growth, emerged during the Cold War and although put forward by metropolitan theorists, was accepted in Latin America as an instrument for achieving growth and an alternative to socialism. Development retained its relevance from 1945 to 1975, when it was gradually displaced from the national and international agenda with the advent of neoliberalism. At the beginning of the 21st century, the debate on development issues reemerged with the failure of the self-regulating market. A critical revision of the concept was necessary, exposing its colonial character, the aim being to build routes away from neoliberalism and overcome the issues that have made Latin America one of the most unequal regions in the world.

Keywords: development, growth, industrialization, self-regulating market, colonial.
INTRODUCTION

Social knowledge in Latin America has to a great extent been a product of political conflict and its emergence has been marked by the necessity to comprehend and explain the multiple, complex and contradictory factors of economic, political and social transformation at each point in their history.

Development as a concept that expresses and measures economic growth does not come about by chance, rather it appears in the context of the cold war and although it was put forward in the early stages by theorists in metropolitan countries, it found its place in Latin America as one of the devices designed to offer an alternative to economic growth, within the framework of capitalism and as an alternative to socialism. This favored its use in difficult political streams and amongst intellectuals affiliated to different schools of economics, and likewise amongst governments of the most diverse ideological tendencies. In this respect, Wolfgang Sachs writes:

Like a towering lighthouse guiding sailors towards the coast, ‘development’ stood as the idea which oriented emerging nations in their journey through post-war history. No matter whether democracies or dictatorships, the countries of the South proclaimed development as their primary aspiration (Sachs, 2010: 15)

Since the term development was devised, the concept has been profusely debated, owing to its limitations, one of them being to view development only in terms of gross domestic product per capita (GDP) within the constraints of capitalism, thus maintaining the inequality and social exclusion characteristic of this economic system. A widespread criticism was that metropolitan theories only emphasized the obstacles to development found in the backward pole avoiding those triggered by the developed pole.

Development, as identified with economic growth, retained its relevance in the three decades following the Second World War. However the topic left the national and international agenda at the end of the 1970s with the advent of neoliberalism. It was replaced by sole consideration for those issues resulting from the inclusion of national economies in the global environment, for competitivity and for the performance of the self-regulating market. In April 1992, from the World Bank, and not without certain irony, Paul Krugman dictates the obituary of development theory, one that “no longer exists, that has passed away, abandoned like old possessions in the attic before a profession (Economics) that has overturned mathematical formalism and the general equilibrium” (Katz, 2008: 5)

1 Profesor-investigador de la Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla.
Correo electrónico: ornelasdelgadojaime@hotmail.com