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Economic Development and the Boundaries of Economics

June session of the YSI Online Seminar in History of Economic Thought

Jun 15, 2016 Download .ics

Online Webinar | 16:00 - 18:00 UTC (please check corresponding time at your location)

The webinar will contain young scholar presentations by Luke Messac and Maria Dahl. Gerardo Serra and Manu Goswami will discuss the papers followed by a general discussion.

You can access the papers by clicking on their titles below. To attend the session, click on “Join the webinar”.


Luke Messac , University of Pennsylvania

What is an Economy? Debating Production Boundaries and Women’s Work in African National Income Accounting

National income accounting methods have long been politically contentious in Africa. Malawi serves as a case study of the epistemological problems of the ‘periphery’ in national income accounting. Starting in the 1940s, British economist Richard Stone sought to make his method of national income accounting a global standard. Yet one unsettled question involved which activities were to be considered ‘economic’ and therefore included in the aggregate, and which were not. While measuring national incomes in central Africa, Phyllis Deane decided that a number of activities not involved in market exchange must be included in national accounts. Yet even after this labour was included, statisticians assumed non-monetary agriculture was incapable of productivity gains. By the 1970s, feminists criticized the invisibility women’s work in national income estimates. Yet even today, global standards for national income accounting continue to exclude much unpaid domestic labour and to impute low monetary values to subsistence production.

Discussant: Gerardo Serra , University of Sussex


Maria Dahl , Kings College London

A Western Idea of Development: What shaped the idea of development in Indian Political Economy, 1870-1914

Identifying a dominant ideology is relevant because it can uncover a discourse that appears common-sense and factual, when many of its conclusions depend to a large degree on its presuppositions. Since the concept of ‘development’ formally emerged in the beginning of the 19th century, industrialisation has become the most agreed upon instrument for measuring a country’s degree of development. In the last quarter of the 19th century, the Indian intellectual elite were growing increasingly frustrated at the state of development in British India. Existing political economic theory taught to its members in the country’s Western style universities seemed inadequate for India’s specific socio-economic environment. The Indian School of Political Economy was founded to develop a new approach to development catered to India’s specificities. But the school has not significantly challenged the central tenet of the Western theory of development, i.e. industrialisation, which largely constrains their theories into a pre-established structure.

Discussant: Manu Goswami , New York University



Full 2016 Program of the YSI Online Seminar in History of Economic Thought