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Chapter 4, on poverty, describes the broad arc of twentieth-century poverty knowledge in terms of “disembedding.” Progressive era social research had cast poverty as a structural problem, one that would require structural solutions. When journalists and politicians thrust poverty back onto the social scientific agenda in the 1960s, the issue was framed-by economists and other social scientists-in narrow and absolute terms, to the explicit exclusion of inequality. Economists in the postwar policy firmament were decisive and notably aloof, but the behavioral science-orientation of their non-economist colleagues contributed to the War on Poverty's circumscribed ambitions too. By the time the political currents shifted in the 1970s, the stage was set for a further disembedding-a re-pauperization of the poverty problem that culminated in Bill Clinton's mid-1990s welfare rollback. The chapter foregrounds the often-determinate role played by politics and-in the case of the neoconservative think tank-mezzo-level policy discourse. But social scientists were not impotent bystanders in the disembedding process. They had, in the War on Poverty years, laid the groundwork for the dodging of inequality questions-and, ironically, for the personal-responsibility moralism that, in the Clinton era, marked a full retreat from liberal social provision.
In the framework of a critical illustration of the contemporary history of economics, this chapter illustrates the development of the neoclassical synthesis, from Hicks to Modigliani; its appropriation of the Phillips curve, some Marshallian varieties of the neoclassical synthesis, the developments of growth theory since Solow’s model, stressing the theoretical limits of these developments. A brief appendix synthetically provides an algebraic representation of these developments, while stressing their limits. A final section surveys the variegated field of development analysis.
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