Volume 43, Number 171,
October-December 2012
Theories of Capitalist Development.
A Comparative Evaluation
Ignacio Trucco

First, there is a set of statements that, supposedly, make up a positivist economic theory that explains the relationships that synchronously and diachronically determine social life.

Secondly, there is a desirable goal, which is normative and more or less general, and not scientifically based.

Thirdly, two possibilities arise from what has been previously mentioned: First, that social systems, for reasons based in the positive theory, tend towards a goal that coincides with the normative goal. Secondly, social systems do not necessarily tend towards the normative goal, but it is possible to understand the factors that may determine a change in direction, for reasons based in the positive theory.

Aldo Ferrer gives an illustrative summary of the tension described in this study in his popular history of Argentinean economics. Ferrer writes that:

[...] the nature of the process of economic development has not changed. [...] Economic development is still a process of economic and societal transformation based on the accumulation of capital, knowledge, technology, capacity to manage and organize resources, education and capacity of the labor force, and of the stability and permeability of institutions, within which the society can settle its conflicts and mobilize its resource potential [...] The process ends up being non-transferrable for exogenous factors, which, released to their own dynamics, can only dismantle a national space [...] and as such, frustrate the process of accumulation, in other words, development (Ferrer, 2008: 462-463).

This quote condenses the items mentioned above and the question that arises is if Ferrer distinguishes the ideas that respond to his moral hierarchy from the ideas that refer to society’s nature and dynamics.

Müller (1996: 16-18) underlines the presence (particularly intense in recent years) of normative statements in development theories and clarifies that the search for a political-moral goal is also an explicit statement, and as such, its weakness becomes a strength.

The exposure or cover-up of the normative goal tends to take a predominant position in debates on development and on what could induce a disappearance of the necessary debate on the features of these social theories that each approach suggests.

Certain theories tend to be rejected for not explicitly stating the normative goal, which they suppose is evident . This criticism tends to be made towards neoclassical and Keynesian growth models, and in general terms, serves as a point of departure for the critical theory. In this work, it is believed that this type of reading can be reversed: above all, these models hide the supposition of arguments referring to the nature of society and its functioning. These non-explicit suppositions become more relevant when, due to spatial-temporal heterogeneous motives, the theory and the studied phenomenon grow further apart.

Secondly, and moving away from what has been previously discussed, when positivist statements are hidden in the chain of arguments, a tautological explanation of social change also tends to be hidden. In reality, this occurs, as will be shown, because a social dynamics theory that assumes a qualitatively static society cannot take into account the historical change, and more concretely, cannot account for the formation of capitalist modernity. In this context, false explanations surge, which occur repeatedly in development theory.2 In large part, development theory was born rejecting this incapacity, but has still not managed to overcome this paradox.

2 In a very different context, but with similar structure, Moncayo Jiménez writes that: “the argument of these theoretical approaches was a bit tautological. The agglomeration of producers in a location provides advantages, but these very same advantages explain the agglomeration. These theories assume what they are trying to understand” (2001:14).

Published in Mexico, 2012-2017 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 48, Number 191, October-December 2017 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
CP 04510, México, D.F. Tel (52 55) 56 23 01 05 and (52 55) 56 24 23 39, fax (52 55) 56 23 00 97, www.probdes.iiec.unam.mx, revprode@unam.mx. Journal Editor: Alicia Girón González. Reservation of rights to exclusive use of the title: 04-2012-070613560300-203, ISSN: pending. Person responsible for the latest update of this issue: Minerva García, Circuito Maestro Mario de la Cueva s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México D.F., latest update: Nov 13th, 2017.
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