Hierarchies of Development podcast

In collaboration with EADI and King’s College, London, Developing Economics has launched a new podcast on Hierarchies of Development. The podcast offers long format interviews focusing on enduring global inequalities. Conversations focus on contemporary research projects by critical scholars and help us understand how and why structural hierarchies persist. Join hosts Ingrid Kvangraven (KCL/DE) and Basile Boulay (EADI) for this series of discussions on pressing issues in the social sciences.

The first episodes was on environmental hierarchies, with the brilliant guests Leon Sealey-Huggins and Tejal Kanitkar:

This podcast was developed with editing support from Jonas Bauhof. Subscribe to get updates on new episodes here (you can choose your preferred platform).

Top posts of 2021

It’s a wrap – the tumultous year of 2021 is almost behind us. As usual, it was a year full of critical anlyses on the blog that can help us make sense of the multiple crises unfolding before our eyes. This year, the most read posts were to a large extent those that explicitly challenge orthodox thinking about economics and development and provide alternative ways of framing the complex problems we face as a society. This may well reflect some important churning that is currently taking place in development economics. The top posts expose the limits to mainstream economics and global development discourses, debunk dominant views of the Washington Consensus and Chile as a ‘Free Market Mirace’, and excavate helpful insights from Marx, Sam Moyo, and scholars of imperialism. They also provide concrete ways of understanding contemporary issues such as intellectual monopoly capitalism and the gig economy.

Here are the top 10 most read posts of 2021:

  1. We Need to Talk about Economics (by Paulo L. dos Santos and Noé Wiener)
  2. Rethinking the Social Sciences with Sam Moyo (by Praveen JhaParis Yeros and Walter Chambati)
  3. The Washington Counterfactual: don’t believe the Washington Consensus resurrection (by Carolina AlvesDaniela Gabor and Ingrid Harvold Kvangraven).
  4. Debunking the ‘Free Market Miracle’: How industrial policy enabled Chile’s export diversification (by Amir Lebdioui)
  5. The Changing Face of Imperialism: Colonialism to Contemporary Capitalism (by Sunanda Sen and Maria Cristina Marcuzzo)
  6. Monetary policy is ultimately based on a theory of money: A Marxist critique of MMT (by Costas Lapavitsas and Nicolás Aguila)
  7. Intellectual monopoly capitalism and its effects on development (by Cecilia Rikap)
  8. The Uncomfortable Opportunism of Global Development Discourses (by Pritish Behuria)
  9. The partnership trap in the Indonesian gig economy (by Arif Novianto)
  10. From Post-Marxism back to Marxism? (by Lucia Pradella)

This is just a tiny, tiny sample of the over eighty posts on the blog this year. You can also follow our active blog series on State Capitalism(s) and Pressure in the City, and delve into all COVID-19 related analysis here, and book reviews here (see also our book symposum on Max Ajl’s new book A People’s Green New Deal here).

In 2022, Developing Economics will continue to provide much-needed critical perspectives on development and economics. Want to join the conversation?: Become a contributor.

 A People’s Green New Deal: A Symposium

Max Ajl’s A People’s Green New Deal intervenes in current debates regarding green planning, green future, green stimuli, and eco-socialism. It surveys a wide range of existing literature on the ecological and social crisis, ranging from ruling-class “great transitions,” to eco-modernist elixirs of the right and the left which bank on technological solutions to today’s social and ecological problems. It then considers and critiques an array of liberal, left-liberal, and social democratic proposals, some of them going under the eco-socialist moniker, and shows how they rest on continued exploitation and primitive accumulation of the periphery. 

A People’s Green New Deal contributions lie in, first, using frameworks of dependency theory, accumulation on a world scale, and ecologically uneven exchange to illuminate the costs and consequences of distinct approaches to the climate crisis, left and right. Second, the book’s emphasis on agriculture, land use, and agro-ecology makes it unique amongst books on the Green New Deal and parallel debates. Its emphasis on decolonization, national sovereignty, anti-imperialism, and climate debt repayments from the North to the South is a third contribution. A fourth is how it deals with technology. 

This review forum assesses the contribution of A People’s Green New DealSakshi situates APGND in terms of a counter-epistemology to Eurocentric and empire-blind resolutions, if not really solutions, to the social and ecological crises to which mainstream Green New Deals are addressed. Sheetal Chhabria assesses APGND’s contribution to thinking on a planetary scale about appropriate planning for a just transition, while criticizing the book’s uncritical embrace of certain Indian nationalist tropes. Güney Işıkara raises questions regarding political agency and organization, the role of national-level planning in any form of national-level green transition, and how to approach anti-imperialism on a world scale.  

Read the contributions:

The D-Econ Database: A response to the most common excuse

The Economics profession has long been too white, too male, too Western-centric, and too hostile to non-mainstream approaches. Today, a new tool – the D-Econ Database – is being launched to address this. 

“All the women were busy.” “There are no people of color working on this topic.” “It’s the male-dominated field that’s the problem, not this particular panel.” We needed big names and all the big names just happen to be white men based in the Global North.”

We’ve all heard these excuses many times over. Women, minorities, and scholars from the Global South are severely underrepresented in the field of Economics – and that makes putting together panels that do not simply reproduce the dominant identities in the field a challenge. The high concentration of a few dominant identities in the Economics field has rightly led to outrage against all-white and all-male panels .  

It is becoming increasingly accepted that this underrepresentation is not simply an issue of fewer women, minorities, and scholars from the Global South choosing not to be a part of the field. On the contrary, research shows that there are systemic biases that make it more difficult for economists who are not white, not male, and not based in the Global North, to be heard. An additional layer of discrimination has to do with approach. Indeed, Economics is “unique among the social sciences in having a single monolithic mainstream, which is either unaware of or actively hostile to alternative approaches” (King, 2013: 17).

Read More »

For a new macroeconomic policy in Colombia

In April 2021, Ivan Duque’s administration presented a tax reform bill labeled “Law of Sustainable Solidarity” to Congress. The bill contemplated an increment of the VAT on basic goods in conjunction with an increase in the marginal tax rates on the income of the so-called Colombian middle class. The vast majority of whom earns monthly less than 4,000,000 Colombian pesos (around 1,065 U.S. dollars). Although the bill put on the table contained some crucial elements for discussion, such as implementing a “basic monthly income” of 21 U.S. dollars (by far less than the current minimum wage). It contained little or nothing to effectively tackle Colombia’s high social and income inequality (with an official GINI of 0.526 for 2019).

The tax reform bill was presented in the mid of a severe economic and social crisis that had worsened due to the pandemic and against which the Colombian government has done hitherto little beyond the orthodox recipes. This triggered a general strike and nationwide social mobilizations that have already lasted over more than two weeks without any clarity as to their resolution as yet. The current social protest can be considered a continuation of a general strike that erupted at the end of 2019 and got into a rest due to the pandemic.

Yet, many elements behind the social movement go beyond dissatisfaction with the tax reform bill. Since 2016 after the peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC, which used to be the oldest and biggest guerrilla in Colombia, the government hasn’t implemented most of the elements contemplated in the peace agreement. Also, although Colombia has had macroeconomic stability for more than 20 years, an indicator such as the official unemployment rate has consistently been above 10%. The level of poverty before the COVID-19 shock was near 32%.

Thus, the following question arises, what does it mean to have macroeconomic stability to the population? A call to think outside the box on what the government can or can’t do must be considered under other lenses. In view of the worsening of the social, political, and economic crisis in Colombia and the need to develop economic policy alternatives to the government’s orthodox position, a group of citizens and academicians wrote the open letter below to respond to those who argue the TINA mantra and believe that there’s a consensus in economics to support tax reforms amidst the COVID-19 epidemic.

Read More »

Top posts of 2020

We know, we know, most people would rather forget everything about 2020. However, before you go into 2021, we want to remind you of some of the important analyses that emerged this year, including insights that had not been adequately appreciated before. These include insights about the links between ecology and capitalism, the fragility of economies that rely heavily on precarious labor, the role of the state in shaping health systems, and how structural racism is embedded in the economy. We were honoured to be able to host important contributions to these debates on the blog this year, along with other posts on economics, politics and development.

Here are the top 10 most read posts of 2020:

  1. A crisis like no other: social reproduction and the regeneration of capitalist life during the COVID-19 pandemic (by Alessandra Mezzadri)
  2. The currency hierarchy and the role of the dollar as world money (by Giovanni Villavicencio)
  3. Is Degrowth an Alternative to Capitalism? (by Güney Işıkara)
  4. Abolition Will Not Be Randomized (by Anastasia Wilson and Casey Buchholz)
  5. The return of State planning (by André Roncaglia and João Romero)
  6. Privatization and the Pandemic (by Jacob Assa)
  7. Haemorrhaging Zambia: Prequel to the Current Debt Crisis (by Andrew M. Fischer)
  8. Pandemics and the State of Welfare (by Rahul Menon)
  9. The Economics of being ‘Interesting’: Many kinds of exclusions (by Farwa Sial)
  10. Time for a Rethink on the Worth of Work (by Paulo dos Santos)

This is just a tiny, tiny sample of the eighty posts on the blog this year. You can also follow our active blog series on State Capitalism(s) and Pressure in the City, and delve into all COVID-19 related analysis here, and book reviews here. In 2021, Developing Economics will continue to provide much-needed critical perspectives on development and economics. Want to join the conversation? Become a contributor!

Blog Series: Pressure in the City

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The Covid-19 pandemic and the restructuring of the global economy it has triggered have exacerbated the need to study a topic that has flown under the radar of social scientists for too long: individuals and social groups experiencing economic pressure which manifests in myriad of somatic and psychological ways. The fallout from pressure — sleeplessness, ulcers, an atmosphere of hopelessness and social mistrust, gambling, suicides, as well as a growing concern about a lack of mental health facilities in cities of the Global South — now pervades urban as well as rural environments around the world. This blog series aims at taking a fresh look at the phenomenon of economic pressure through a decisively comparative and interdisciplinary approach. We will critically interrogate the role of economic pressure in the lives of both the rich and the poor, the unemployed and the workforce, across class and continents in order to answer, among others, the following questions:

  • What meanings does economic pressure take on as it travels between different contexts?
  • How do city dwellers of diverse class, religious and gender backgrounds experience pressure in their professional and private lives? How do they accommodate, negotiate and deflect pressure?
  • Does economic pressure offer new analytical possibilities vis-à-vis other concepts used to describe similar phenomena (e.g. poverty, uncertainty, precarity etc.)?
  • What is the relation between individually perceived economic pressure and structural changes of the economy or polity?
  • What moral valuations do urban residents assign to economic pressure? What logics underpin ‘good’ and ‘bad’ forms of pressure?
  • How can inter-disciplinary methodological and/or theoretical approaches deepen our understanding of economic pressure —the forms it assumes, the actions it motivates and the effects it generates?

We welcome contributions from a wide range of scientific disciplines (political economy, anthropology, economics, sociology, development studies, gender studies, international relations, geography, etc.) as well as other professions (such as practicing psychologists, counselors, activists, bankers, sports professionals etc.). As the blog’s organizers are all Africanists, the blog will, however, have an initial focus on sub-Saharan and, especially, Eastern Africa. We are confident that this will be balanced over time.

  • Pressure in the City: Stress, Worry and Anxiety in Times of Economic Crisis. The first contribution to the series, written by Jörg Wiegratz, Catherine Dolan, Wangui Kimari and Mario Schmidt will detail the rationale of the series and provide necessary background information and context.
  • Urban Africa under Stress: Rethinking Economic Pressure in Cities. Written by the same four scholars, this post explains in more detail the objectives of our blog series intervention, and our observations regarding pressure as a social phenomenon in a capitalist city in the Global South. It introduces Nairobi as a city of pressure and critically discusses the scholarship on economic pressure. As such, it acts as an introduction to subsequent blogs on Nairobi as a city of pressure.
  • ‘There is a Lot of Pressure on Me. It’s Like the Distance Between Heaven and Earth’ – Landscapes of Debt, Poverty-in-People and Social Atomization in Covid-19 Nairobi. Written by Mario Schmidt, Eric Kioko, Evelyn Atieno Owino, and Christiane Stephan. This post sheds light on the multidimensional ways in which Kenya’s political elite’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has increased economic pressure on actors living in informal and low-income settlements of Nairobi (Kibera and Pipeline). It will be followed by a second post exploring the effects of the pandemic on inhabitants of Kileleshwa, a wealthier suburb of Nairobi.
  • ‘Life On These Stones Is Very Hard’ – House Helps in Covid-19 Nairobi. Written by Eric M. Kioko, Judith K. Musa, Mario Schmidt and Christiane Stephan, this blog focuses on the economic pressure experienced by women who lost jobs as house helps following the Covid-19 pandemic and how they manoeuvre their new economic situation within Nairobi’s richer suburbs.
  • “Under pressure”: negotiating competing demands and desires in a time of precarious earnings. Written by Hannah Dawson, this post examines the social and economic pressures faced by un(der)employed young men in an informal settlement on the outskirts of Johannesburg. It highlights the multiplicity of demands on young men’s precarious incomes and the tension they experience from the simultaneous pressure to consume and improve their own lives while at the same time providing for their families and children.
  • (De)pressurizing in urban centers beyond the megacity: notes on pressure from Nakuru, Kenya. Written by Nick Rahier, this post sheds light on life ‘under pressure’ from the perspective of Nakuru, a vibrant secondary Kenyan city situated 160 km Northwest of Nairobi. It presents Nakuru as a place where pressure manifests itself as a highly volatile and affective state of being that is rich in meaning about what it means to (de)pressurize beyond the megacities.
  • Less flow, more pressure: accessing water in N’Djamena in times of Covid-19. Written by Ismaël Maazaz, this blog post looks at state policies designed to mitigate the economic pressure weighting on water end-users of N’Djamena, the capital of Chad in the midst of the pandemics in 2020. Such policies adversely affected the actual pipe water pressure, generating additional challenges.
  • Inner-city pressure and living somewhere in-between. Written by Aidan Mosselson, this blog post traces the (pre-covid-19) experiences of people living in social and affordable housing in inner-city Johannesburg. Inner-city residents contend with economic pressure, as they work hard to pay their rent and often forgo other forms of social interaction whilst they strive to get by. But pressures are also more-than-economic, and emanate from difficult and unpleasant environments and concerns about safety. Combined, these pressures create a state of resignation and being in-between, of living in an undesirable area, aspiring to be elsewhere, but unable to find somewhere better and still affordable.
  • Living in the shadows of Dubai. Written by Jonathan Ngeh, this blog post draws on the lived experiences of African migrants in Dubai to shed light on how economic inequality increases pressure on low-income migrants. Furthermore, it reveals how the existence of poverty alongside wealth puts pressure on not only the poor but also on the wealthy city residents.
  • Pressure to Succeed: From Prosperity, Stress (A reflection on aspiration in the new Kenya). Written by Peter Lockwood, the blog post draws attention towards the subjective experience of pressure to succeed, to ‘make it’, and live a good life, by Kenyan youth living on the northern outskirts of Nairobi. Departing from a purely economic understanding of pressure in the city, the blog highlights the feelings of shame and failure harboured by Kenyan youth unable to accumulate the wealth that would allow them to live good lives according to mainstream understandings of economic success’.

Blog series editors:

Jörg Wiegratz is a Lecturer in Political Economy of Global Development at the School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds, and Senior Research Associate, Department of Sociology, University of Johannesburg. j.wiegratz@leeds.ac.uk.

Catherine Dolan is Reader in Anthropology at SOAS, University of London. cd17@soas.ac.uk

Wangui Kimari is a Postdoctoral researcher at the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town. kuikimari@gmail.com

Mario Schmidt is Postdoctoral researcher at Collaborative Research Centre “Future Rural Africa” and a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities, University of Cologne. marioatschmidt@gmail.com

Photo by cheng feng on Unsplash

Top posts of 2019

Keep Calm and Blog on

As the year comes to a close, we look back on our most read posts of the year. It’s been a busy year, with over 40 blog posts and two blog series (on financial inclusion and state capitalism) published. The readership of the blog has grown rapidly, the editorial board has expanded, and this year the blog was included in the Top 100 Economics Blogs of 2019 by Intelligent Economist for the first time.

Most read posts of 2019:

  1. Why so Hostile? Busting Myths about Heterodox Economics (by Ingrid H. Kvangraven and Carolina Alves)
  2. The Curious Case of M-Pesa’s Miraculous Poverty Reduction Powers (by Milford Bateman, Maren Duvendack and Nicholas Loubere)
  3. Using Marx as a Pejorative to Defend the Ease of Doing Business: Analysing The World Bank’s attack on CGD (by Dissenting Voices)
  4. The Green New Deal: Whither Capitalism? (by Güney Işıkara and Ying Chen)
  5. Neoliberalism or Neocolonialism? Evaluating Neoliberalism as a Policy Prescription for Convergence (by Rahul Menon)
  6. Rethinking the Failures of Mining Industrialisation in the African Periphery (by Ben Radley)
  7. An Alternative Economics Summer Reading List, 2019 (by members of Decolonising and Diversifying Economics)
  8. Philanthrocapitalism: How to Legitimize the Hegemony of the Rich with a “Good Vibes” Discourse (by Jorge Garcia-Arias)
  9. Mind the Gap: Addressing the Class Dimension in Higher Education (by Lorena Lombardozzi)
  10. Advocates of the SDGs have a monetarism problem (by Rick Rowden)
In 2020, Developing Economics will continue to provide much-needed critical perspectives on development and economics. Want to join the conversation? Become a contributor!