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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: November 2014

5 - Two Views on the Obstacles to Development

from I - Theoretical Discussions


I count myself among the multitude given an introduction to the history of economic thought through Bob Heilbroner's The Worldly Philosophers. When I first read the book I was not sufficiently knowledgeable of foreign languages to recognize the distinguishing characteristic for those included in the book was having a unique Weltanschauung. These were not worldly philosophers in the sense of having experience of the world, but rather in the sense of having an individual worldview of economic development.

My recollection is that I had the book assigned as a basic text in the autumn of 1964. Most students of economics were then unaware of the implications of the UN Trusteeship Council's rapid creation of new independent states from former colonies and the problems of economic development that they would face. But, the June 1963 preface to the revised edition of The Worldly Philosophers (despite several transoceanic moves I still have my original copy) already notes that this shift reflected the change in economics toward “more concern over the trend of economic development” (Preface, p. ii).

Most of the specific discussion of development issues is found in the concluding chapter, “Beyond the Economic Revolution,” which laments that economists are not “in general today keenly aware of the historic responsibilities and implications” of making policy recommendations on appropriate priorities and strategies for developing countries:

The trend in economic thought in our time is not towards the “grand dynamics” of the future, but turns aside from such speculative social forecasting to consideration of more “scientific” matters.[…]