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The political economy of development
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The political economy of development

( Róbinson Rojas
Sandford, Nov. 2003)

   "Political economy integrates anthropology, economics, history, law, political science, philosophy, sociology and sciences of nature", ( P. Bohmer ) providing building blocks for a methodology to understand social change and also supplying the analytical tools for making sense of contemporary public problems which relate not only to a variety of styles of development but also the survival of planet earth as an eco system capable of sustaining life as we know it.
The Róbinson Rojas Archive seek to provide  access to all the knowledge required for the above purposes, which amounts to what I call the political economy of development.

The Róbinson Rojas Archive
introduce students and researchers to the political economy of the global system of nations and social clases, as a discipline dealing with relations of dependency, interdependency and domination between nations and social groups within and between  nations. Therefore, we are looking at a process, an historical process. Since the early 1950s until today two theoretical approaches have been utilised, on the one hand,  for those who oppose social emancipation and, on the other hand, for those who fight for achieving it. Modernisation theory by the former and dependency theory by the latter. The reader will find material on those theories here. Historical analysis requires an assessment of the effects of colonisation, decolonisation, neo-colonisation and globalisation on the styles of development in Asian, African and Latin American societies as a first approach to understand, for instance, the features of the contemporary imperialism led by  the economic and political ruling elites in United States of America. The Róbinson Rojas Archive , The Project for the First People's Century and Puro Chile. The memory of the people, provide literature on that.

  The Róbinson Rojas Archive, The Project for the First People's Century and Puro Chile. The memory of the people aim to:
  • develop interest in the analysis of international economics as a discipline dealing with the economic, political and cultural relations of power and dominance between nations.
  • support the study of  the complexities of economic relations  between nations being affected by, and in turn influencing, the political, social, cultural and military relations between those nations, and how economic interdependence/dependence is affected by, and in turn influences, the internal political, social, cultural and military structures of nations. The complex whole creating class structures, class antagonisms, and class alliances which have an international feature, especially in the last fifty years or so.
  • further a comparative analysis of contemporary relations between industrialised societies and non-industrialised societies.
  • contribute to appreciating  the different ways in which some social groups in the so-called developing societies have attempted to promote economic and social development as  constrained both by the world economy and their internal social structure.
  • further the analysis of  the connections between international economic and political domination and processes of gender, race, religion, cultural and income differentiation, both among and within countries.
  • help in understanding  the correlation between styles of industrialisation, environmental destruction, and wealth and poverty creation.
  • provide an analytical framework for creating alternative models of development aiming at total social emancipacion without endangering the survival of planet earth.

   We seek  to help our readers to  analyse the most fundamental political, social and economic issues facing contemporary developing societies; to understand the relationships between environment and development, world economic system and development, capitalism and poverty, neoliberalism and imperialism, capitalism and environmental damage, capitalism and blockages to human development; to develop a critical appraisal of the role played by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the governments of the industrialised countries in maintaining a globalised economy to meet the needs of transnational corporations economy; and eventually to  analyse the role played by internal socio-economic forces and external socio-economic forces in the styles of development followed by Asia, Africa and Latin America, particularly after the 1950s.

About the role of the state

  The Róbinson Rojas Archive
, The Project for the First People's Century and Puro Chile. The memory of the people  provide the reader with literature on the description, understanding and explaining of the central role of the state in the process of development, its relation with civil society, and especially its articulation with the global economy as dominated by international capital, particularly transnational corporations supported by their home countries' states. The literature attempts to analyse the different styles of development based upon the triple alliance between the state, domestic capitalist class and international capitalist class, and then unfold  the political economy of development addressing the debate about globalisation, sustainability, poverty, development, neo-colonisation and imperialism.

   Here the reader will be able to study  the relationship between development strategies, political forms and theories and practices on the role of the state in economic, political and social change  both in industrialized countries and developing societies.

  The Róbinson Rojas Archive, The Project for the First People's Century, and Puro Chile. The Memory of the People attempt:

  • To provide a basic understanding of major theoretical perspectives on the state, exploring whether there is a relationship between forms of State and forms of development, and political implications of social change during development processes.
  • To evaluate current theoretical debates within the field of state and economic growth studies and their relevance to developing societies.
  • To understand the dynamic of the internationalization of capitalism as a regulated process, in which, historically, the nation state has set the context in which the interdependence of national and international economic activities could be regulated, having a major role in the creation of political and economic empires.
  • To evaluate how nation states, as containers of specific political, economic, social, cultural, and institutional attributes, have constantly influenced the pace and nature of international economic activity, with governments modifying, creating or destroying comparative and competitive advantage, creating in the process the world division between dominant economies and dominated economies.

The political economy of research methodology for development studies

   We  encourage students of development to think for themselves and to question  READY-MADE ASSUMPTIONS, and to become aware that research is a live thing, a first-person business that brings with it new knowledge. Thus, we encourage them to consider  that research methods is not about "instruments" but about the creation and use of instruments with an ideological aim.

   Contemporary research on development is focused on discrete but interrelated development issues at the micro and macro level (i.e., sustainability, globalization, poverty reduction, unequal social relations, structural adjustment, environmental protection, human development, participation, institutional development, cultural domination), which calls for a multidisciplinary perspective leading to the creation of interdisciplinary methods of interpretation and intervention as a complement to the methodologies applied by the individual disciplines involved.

   As defined elsewhere, research methods have been conceptualized as tools to be used for answering specific questions and for solving different scientific or practical problems. Thus, it is the substance of the matter -the questions to be answered- that must guide the selection of methods, not viceversa. From the above is easy to see that students should be trained in methodology, techniques and use of tools which enable them to undertake further research (doctoral) and/or practical research with participatory purposes (which is the rationale behind NGOs and their understanding of what action research is).

   Thus, methodological inventions are required to make multidisciplinary approaches applicable. The objective is to familiarize students/ researchers with the point of view that contemporary issues (as listed above) can be addressed at the micro level, and, in particular cases, linked with the macro level, in order to define what is the problem, whose problem it is, how to solve it, and why it must be solved.

   The above is achieved through basic  training in macroeconomics (with emphasis on the dynamic of international trade), the philosophy of the social sciences ( including the logic of scientific methods; objectivity and subjectivity in social sciences and critiques of traditional social science approaches), and political economy in general.

   Because our research methods approach is interdisciplinary, the techniques become also interdisciplinary techniques for analysis (i.e. computer-based data processing, statistical methods -both qualitative and quantitative, transforming qualitative information into qualitative data, graphical methods -with the purpose of training  students in visual analysis of patterns- plots, picture analysis, etc.)

   By and large, students should be challenged to reconsider their role as traditional researchers and take advantage of the scope for critical studies. Moreover, our interdisciplinary approach to issues and techniques challenge  students to participate in a process to rescue development research from a situation were development studies have been concerned almost totally with how international agencies can and should encourage development, and very little with the empirical study of social change as taking place in a global environment in which the policy framework at the macro (international) level reduces the scope for manoeuvre at the micro (national) level.

   In the process of addressing issues and techniques to analyse the issues, good teaching should aim to produce in seminars and lectures high quality analysis, having in mind that "researchers should analyze the world as they perceive it to be, untainted by how they would like it to be...", with an emphasis on the dynamics of development ( as a process of social change ), and international development cooperation ( as a process of reducing forced inequalities ).

  Quoting Pete Bohmer, we can say that research methodology for development   must have in mind that political economy helps to "understanding the modern world and providing tools for analyzing contemporary public problems. It focuses upon problems related to class, race and gender - globally, nationally and locally. Political Economy seeks to study how such problems interweave and overlap, how they evolved, how they are understood, how and why certain decisions are made about them, and how these issues impact the quality of human life. At its best, Political Economy provides the interdisciplinary tools needed to analyze strategies for social change, historically and in the present, and explore alternatives to the current global system. Major social problems are deeply grounded in theories and history of cultural, philosophical, social, economic and political practice. Their understanding involves exploring basic analytic concepts and values (freedom, equality, justice and democracy) and their meanings today. Political Economy looks at societies as dynamic and ever-changing systems, comparing them in different countries and cultures and evaluating their impacts on the everyday lives of all affected people". (See "Political Economy Courses taught by Pete Bohmer",

The problem of public action and social emancipation

  In june 2003 I wrote in
Project for the First People's Century: "this section in PFPC publishes useful texts dealing with strategies and tactics needed to stop US imperialism, encircle it, and eventually dismantling it, to make possible the building of more human societies. Thus, this section will deal with defining targets and activities, pinpointing the main economic and social forces behind US imperialism and its vassal states, and from there drawing a blueprint to transit to the First People's Century".   The main tenets of this statement is that there is a need for developing public action, organise social movements to block the efforts of those who attempt to colonise the world, and then unfold, step by step the basis for social emancipation. We believe that analysing the political economy of development studies is a way to reach a solid formulation of what forms public action should take and what should be the main aims of social emancipation.

   Take public action at a first level of description: it seems to us that there are three path towards a FPC, all of them being transited by members of the civil society more or less at the same time.

  • Path One: public action in the heart of the empire which is United States of America;
  • Path Two: public action in the heart of the industrialized countries where transnational corporation and their political think tanks have created a spider web of vested interests (economic and political) in partnership with the US transnational corporations as a core;
  • Path Three: Public action in the neo-colonized societies in  Asia, Africa and Latin America and the periphery of Western Europe (which includes former bureaucratic socialist countries)

  From the above it follows  that public action must be implemented by each local civil society, even when international coordination is required to maximise political efficiency. Here we have a form of dynamic instance of local-global. Of course, public action is the outcome of informed decisions based on global-local knowledge. This global-local knowledge is within reach of millions of indivual through web sites like ours. This global-local knowledge give us a clearer picture of who are the ones who oppose social emancipation both within each nation and also as an international society of owners of transnational capital gathered around the economic, political and social elites in the USA, and protected by its military might.

  Social emancipation, therefore, will unfold its most important features if we have in mind what are the economic, political, social and cultural barriers to it at the beginning of the 21st century. Many researchers are trying to contribute to the clarification of the notion of social emancipation. Some of them, in the University of Coimbra, Portugal, implemented a research from 1999 to 2001. They wrote:

"The objective of this research project is twofold: to contribute to the reinvention of social emancipation; to contribute to the renovation of the social sciences.

  • 1 - The paradigm of social emancipation developed by western modernity is undergoing a deep and final crisis. Social emancipation must, therefore, be reinvented. It must be understood as a form of counter-hegemonic globalization relying on local-global linkages and alliances among social groups around the world which go on resisting social exclusion, exploitation and oppression caused by hegemonic neoliberal globalization. Such struggles result in the development of alternatives to the exclusionary and monolithic logic of global capitalism, that is to say,
    a) spaces of democratic participation,
    b) non-capitalistic production of goods and services,
    c) creation of emancipatory knowledges,
    d) post-colonial cultural exchanges,
    e) new international solidarities.
  • 2 - The social sciences produced in the core countries from the 19th century onwards have exhausted their capacity for renovation and innovation. As a result, they have ceased to be the conscience of progressive social transformation to become devices of legitimation, if not consecration, of the status quo and the social injustices it reproduces.
      By creating a network among a considerable number of social scientists working in countries which have been peripheral to the production of hegemonic social scientific knowledge, this project aims at favoring the emergence of a scientific community determined to develop
    a)new paradigms of social knowledge,
    b)relations among different types of knowledges, and
    c)engagement between knowledges and social action.
    In each countries the following themes were dealt with:
    • Participatory democracy
    • Alternative production systems
    • Emancipatory multiculturalism, justices and citizenships
    • Biodiversity, rival knowledges and intellectual property rights
    • New labor internationalism

  To underline the objective of promoting alternative knowledges and rival knowledges, the project includes The Voices of the World. It consists of in-depth interviews of activists and leaders of local initiatives or social movements, not only to collect their views and evaluations about their own social practice, but also to glimpse at their wisdom about the world, society and nature, past and future."

  It seem to us that "local initiative or social movements" are the richest source of experience to unfold a local-global transit to social emancipation and then, of course, the creation of a human society able to implement human development in an environmentally sustainable manner. By then, the practice of the political economy of development will finally blossom. We are trying to contribute to that.

Dr. Peter Bohmer, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA, U.S.A., 1996
(Róbinson Rojas, November 2003)

Note: The Motivation and Declaration of Principles of our Project for the First People's Century could be considered as a proto-alternative model for social emancipation. Also, the Chilean Popular Unity Political Programme constitute a proto-alternative model for social emancipation. I do suggest reading both.