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Albert Hirschman and his controversial research report

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  • Ana Maria Bianchi

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Abstract

During the early nineteen sixties, Albert Hirschman negotiated with the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development, part of the World Bank group, the financial support that he needed for an extended visit to several WB development projects scattered throughout the poor areas of the world. The document where he reports his visit was the matter of much controversy between the IBRD staff and Hirschman. One of the major points of disagreement was the latter´s refusal to employ the technique of cost-benefit analysis, then very popular at the WB, as a measure of the success of a project. Hirschman claimed that a one-dimensional scale was unable to grasp the various indirect effects of a project, which, he argued, were so varied as to escape detection by one or even several criteria uniformly applied to all projects. The paper claims that the strong negative reaction that Hirschman found among the WB economists was a crucial factor in his decision to leave the strict realm of economics and to embrace the broader social sciences themes of his subsequent writings.

Suggested Citation

  • Ana Maria Bianchi, 2011. "Albert Hirschman and his controversial research report," Working Papers, Department of Economics 2011_03, University of São Paulo (FEA-USP).
  • Handle: RePEc:spa:wpaper:2011wpecon03
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    File URL: http://www.repec.eae.fea.usp.br/documentos/2Hirschman_working_paper.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hirschman,Albert O., 1981. "Essays in Trespassing," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521282437, April.
    2. Ana Maria Bianchi, 2011. "Visiting-economists through Hirschman's eyes," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(2), pages 217-242.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bent Flyvbjerg & Cass R. Sunstein, 2015. "The Principle of the Malevolent Hiding Hand; or, the Planning Fallacy Writ Large," Papers 1509.01526, arXiv.org.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Hirschman; World Bank; economic development; development economics;

    JEL classification:

    • B20 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - General
    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development

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