Economic History

Objectives
Development is a long run and global process. History, the present and the future are at the center of that process, the analysis of which must be tackled with historically informed development and growth theory, able to catch general laws, but also account historical specificities and the hierarchical character of international relations.

Some features of global development during the last centuries to be highlighted are:

– In spite of recent success stories in processes of development and catching up, the huge differences in development paths and levels that have been observed have been extremely persistent, leading to what has been labeled as the “Great Divergence”. The success of the world leaders in economic, social and technical progress, have permeated to some extent to the periphery of the world economy, but basic differences in development levels remain.

– The pattern of global development has produced a significant environmental crisis, which is unsustainable.

– In spite for some progress, global governance has shown a very limited capacity to tackle with poverty, inequality, wealth concentration, fair trade and climate change. The international arena continues to be characterized by huge imbalances of economic and political power, in the use of natural resources, and in access to knowledge and technology.

This research group will focus on some topics, which are of particular interest for Latin America. The approach will be comparative and global in nature, with special focus on other developing regions and their relations to the global economy. The main topics are:

  • Productive specialization, integration to the world markets and industrial policy. State capabilities to put industrial policy in practice and the international experience on that matter, have come back to the forefront of the debate.
  • The role of natural resources in development: technical change, sustainability, energy (sources, production, distribution and consumption), and property relations, with their impact on wealth and income distribution.
  • Growth and financial volatility. Latin America has shown to be one of the most volatile regions in the world, with frequent financial crisis. This is related to its productive structure, the high volatility of international capital flowing to the region and the constraints on adopting proper counter-cyclical policies.
  • Inequality, the welfare State and human development is a huge challenge worldwide. The links between the pattern of development and the welfare regimes and their impact on human development and human capital formation are crucial. The role of gender relations deserves particular attention.
  • The dynamics of development. A lively strand of debate has risen during the last decades. There still is little agreement on which are the driving forces of development: the accumulation of productive factors and technical change; geography; institutional settings and change (with many disagreements on what are the relevant institutions: legal systems, formal informal, organizations and actors, international or domestic); and culture. The study of Latin America in comparison to other regions with similar colonial backgrounds has still much to add to the understanding of development.
José Antonio Ocampo

José Antonio Ocampo

Research Director