Reviews / Comptes rendus
Economics and development studies by Michael Tribe, Frederick Nixson, and Andy Sumner
Article first published online: 24 JAN 2013
© Canadian Association of Geographers / L'Association canadienne des géographes
The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe canadien
Volume 57, Issue 1, page e17, Spring / printemps 2013
How to Cite
Bowles, P. (2013), Economics and development studies by Michael Tribe, Frederick Nixson, and Andy Sumner. The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe canadien, 57: e17. doi: 10.1111/cag.12002
- Issue published online: 22 FEB 2013
- Article first published online: 24 JAN 2013
Economics and development studies by , , and , Routledge , New York , 2010 , xxi + 288 pp. , paper $46.00 ( ISBN 9780415450386 )
This book has an ambitious purpose: to make economics accessible, and of interest, to second and third year students in international development studies programs. The book starts from the premise that, as a multidisciplinary area of inquiry, development studies must include a significant understanding of economic approaches to development. The problem is that students find these approaches hard and methodologically out of sync with those from other disciplines. To compound matters, economists all too often dismiss other disciplinary approaches, refuse to engage with them, or retreat into their own world of abstract model-building.
Seeking to “bridge the gap,” as they put it, to prove the value of economics to development studies students are three economists with considerable experience and expertise. They do so in a book not intended to rival the weighty textbooks that deal with the economics of development, but in a more selective way, by analyzing key economic topics in eight chapters following their introductory chapter. These are: “The nature of development economics,”“Economic growth and structural change,”“Economic growth and developing countries,”“Economic growth and development since 1960,”“The global economy and developing countries,”“Developing countries and international trade,”“Economics and development policy,” and “Poverty, inequality and development economists.”
The book largely succeeds in its two central aims of 1) demonstrating the importance of economic approaches to an understanding of development studies and 2) illustrating that there are debates between development economists and that economics is not the monolithic discipline that it often appears to be to non-economists. The chapters are presented with admirable clarity and a sweeping knowledge of the historical debates over development theory and policy. This will be welcomed by students and teachers alike.
The main problem with the book is in seeing exactly who will use it and how; it is difficult to see how it could be used as a stand-alone required text. The book does not use too many of the standard diagrammatic tools of economics to warrant students being required to take an introductory course in economics before approaching this text. On the other hand, it does employ enough that some class time is going to be needed to introduce concepts—such as production functions, production possibility curves, and supply and demand analysis—to students with no previous exposure to them. The debates covered in the text are one of the main strengths of the book, and they are summarized very succinctly, perhaps too succinctly. At times, the book therefore has the tendency to descend into being a number of short reviews and a list of further reading. I found this to be especially the case for the first substantive chapter on the nature of development economics. The treatment of some topics is also brief—four and half pages on the environment and development policy for example—and will lead many to seek out more extended treatments. Indeed, in many chapters, the authors refer students to the standard textbooks for further discussion.
All in all, this book is a welcome addition to the armoury of teachers seeking new ways to infuse economic approaches into development studies curricula. The clarity of the exposition and the surveys of the approaches and debates that constitute development economics should appeal to students. It is more likely to appear, however, as supplementary reading rather than as a required text on most reading lists.