The Limits of Rapid Economic Development
Disparities between the economic development of nations have widened throughout the twentieth century, and they show no sign of closing. In the nineteenth century, the economic potential of developed countries was three times that of the rest of the world. Today the gap is twenty times greater, and the trend is increasing. In this provocative reexamination of theories of accelerated development, or "catching up," Vladislav Inozemtsev traces the evolution of thinking about how countries lagging behind can most swiftly move forward, and assesses their prospects for success in this effort.
Inozemtsev reviews the experience of the Soviet Union, as well as the recent experience of Japan, China, Southeast Asia. He finds that those countries that have moved forward most rapidly have successfully adapted new technology to old processes. But even then, they face daunting odds, as they grapple with the need to change their population's ideas and behavior. And in the 1990s, their rates of development have noticeably declined. "Catching Up" assesses prospects for successful application of theories of accelerated development in the global economy. Inozemtsev's pessimistic conclusion is that rapid industrial progress is not achievable in the information society of the twenty-first century.
Inozemtsev reaches this conclusion after reviewing theories of accelerated development thinking from the diverse viewpoints of the 1940s and 1950s, to the more intensive ideological polarization of the 1960s. He sees thinkers of the 1940s and 1950s as driven by technological determinism, in which development is seen as an absolute value, and the paradigm is entirely Western. In the 1960s and 1970s, dependency theory held sway, holding that catching up was impossible, and arguing for a kind of economic isolationism. The achievements from the 1970s through the 1990s proved advocates of Westernization more accurate in their predictions. However, the recent slowdown in growth and in particular the financial crises of 1997-98 have given some analysts pause. While some see this simply as an interruption, others believe the theory of "catching up" is itself flawed. Inozemtsev places himself in the latter camp. He believes it will be impossible for non-Western nations to "catch up" with the West because of their inability to generate or control information and knowledge.
This provocative volume will be required reading for developmental economists, policymakers, and all those interested in the risks and prospects in this new century.
"Inozemtsev's pessimistic conclusion is that rapid industrial progress is not achievable in the information society of the twenty-first century. He believes it will be impossible for non-Western nations to "catch up" with the West because of their inability to generate or control information and knowledge. In Catching Up, he provides a rational explanation of why the "catching up" development doctrine ū which, in various forms, has become on of the outgoing century's most popular social theories ū no longer makes scientific and practical sense as we are approaching a new landmark in human history and ought, therefore, to be abandoned by Russia and the world at large. It is a provocative and thoughtful reexamination of theories of accelerated development...that traces the evolution of thinking about how countries lagging behind can most swiftly move forward, and assess their prospects for success in this effort." ūSirReadaLot.org
Vladislav L. Inozemtsev is professor of economics at Moscow State University and director of the Moscow-based Centre for Post-Industrial Research. He is author of The Consitution of Post Economic State and One World Divided.
"An intriguing look at the prospects for development in the industrializing countries... conclusions are fairly pessimistic... Some of Inozemtsev's ideas will be controversial, to say the least, but he succeeds in raising interesting questions concerning why development is uneven and, in some cases, apparently unsustainable."—Choice