Recent trends in economic theory – implications for development geography
Development geography and mainstream economic theory have for many years lived separate lives. Especially so since the downfall of development economics, an academic subject which has repeatedly been pronounced dead by one of today’s leading US economists. The geographical dimension - the location of production in space - has completely disappeared from neo-classical economic theory. This is, in one sense, curious, because the ‘founding father’ of neo-classical economic theory - the Englishman Alfred Marshall - is still an important figure also in economic geography through his industrial districts. We shall return to ‘the two Marshalls’ later in this paper. Another vintage economist used in modern economic geography, Alfred Weber, with his Location Theory (Standorttheorie), belongs to a school of economics which virtually died out: The Historical School, of German origin. However, economic theory is itself changing rapidly at the moment - and interestingly one of the new developments is that the ideas of the German Historical School are coming back into economic theory. In contrast to modern economic theory, in the holistic Historical School of economics, both time (history) and place (geography) play a natural part. In this paper we shall analyse the recent main trends in economic theory, and attempt to assess the implications of these changes for development geography. Especially, we shall discuss the possibilities for a process of convergence between the discipline of development geography and parts of economic theory.
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