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Learning to Unlearn from Development


  • Deepak Nayyar


This paper sketches a picture, with broad strokes on a wide canvas, of thinking about, and outcomes in, development during the second half of the 20th Century, to stress the importance of learning and “unlearning” from experience. In doing so, it questions the caricature distinctions between success and failure at development, in a world where outcomes were mixed. This is illustrated vividly by a tale of two countries: China and India. In this time span, thinking about development witnessed a complete swing of the pendulum, from the Development Consensus to the Washington Consensus. These shifts in paradigm, which reshaped strategies of development, were influenced strongly by history and conjuncture, reinforced by the dominant political ideology of the times. However, changes in development strategies did not lead to the expected outcomes. In fact, there was a discernible mismatch between turning points in thinking and performance. Of course, experience of the past 50 years did lead to some rethinking about development. This learning from experience, however, was selective; and it differed across schools of thought, for it was shaped only in part by outcomes. It was also influenced significantly by priors in thinking and ideology in perspectives. Thus, attempts to unlearn from development, which questioned beliefs or changed previous beliefs embedded in ideologies, were few and far between.

Suggested Citation

  • Deepak Nayyar, 2008. "Learning to Unlearn from Development," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(3), pages 259-280.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:36:y:2008:i:3:p:259-280 DOI: 10.1080/13600810802264407

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Per Eklund & Katsushi Imai & Fabrizio Felloni, 2007. "Women's organisations, maternal knowledge, and social capital to reduce prevalence of stunted children: Evidence from rural Nepal," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(3), pages 456-489.
    2. Kaufmann, Daniel & Kraay, Aart & Mastruzzi, Massimo, 2005. "Governance matters IV : governance indicators for 1996-2004," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3630, The World Bank.
    3. Christiaan Grootaert & Thierry Van Bastelar, 2002. "Understanding and Measuring Social Capital : A Multidisciplinary Tool for Practitioners," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 14098.
    4. Sascha O. Becker & Andrea Ichino, 2002. "Estimation of average treatment effects based on propensity scores," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 2(4), pages 358-377, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Deepak Nayyar, 2010. "China, India, Brazil and South Africa in the World Economy: Engines of Growth?," Working Papers id:3039, eSocialSciences.
    2. Naudé, Wim, 2011. "Entrepreneurship is Not a Binding Constraint on Growth and Development in the Poorest Countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 33-44, January.
    3. Nayyar, Deepak, 2008. "China, India, Brazil and South Africa in the World Economy: Engines of Growth?," WIDER Working Paper Series DP2008/05, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    4. Erik S. Reinert, 2009. "The Terrible Simplifers: Common Origins of Financial Crises and Persistent Poverty in Economic Theory and the new ‘1848 Moment’," Working Papers 88, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.
    5. Deepak Nayyar, 2016. "Structural transformation in the world economy: On the significance of developing countries," WIDER Working Paper Series 102, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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