Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Africa's Growth Prospects in a European Mirror"?

FIND BELOW AN INTERESTING RESPONSE FROM RIAZ K. TAYOB ON THIS EXCLAMATION: "Gosh, Acemoglu et al. have indeed influenced Economic Historians, their argument is all over this article: 'Africa’s Growth Prospects in a European Mirror: A Historical Perspective'"

That is an inspiring review of the book, and a good read in the other link.
There are numerous explanations for what happened in the great divergence. Your emphasis on the dialectical nature of production between the West and the colonised, with its influence on the type of productive forces it spurred in Africa are important issues to highlight. So is the unequal trade this inspired, although financial relationships later managed the economies so it was not simply unequal trade during the merchant era.

Not having time to read the book, I find the inclusive and exclusive dichotomy useful in some senses from your retelling- even though their theory may be less than water tight. 

The double movements are interesting, as history is not neat. The movement that accompanied inclusive institutions (higher profits and higher or better wages and conditions) has not been apparent in too many developing countries, i.e., enclosure and increased welfare at the turn to the Techno-Econo paradigm of the Industrial Revolution. You rightly point out the double movement of better life (and production) in the West with pauperisation in the colonies is not recognised in the sense that Western wealth is related to Southern poverty. We see this replayed now in the climate negotiations where historical responsibility for carbon emissions is excluded - and 30% of the world in the North wants 70% of the remaining carbon space!

That said, the issue of structural change (from commodity or extractive economies to advanced services and manufacturing) is much more interesting as an analytic, and dismissing it as modernisation has its problems. Modernisation need not be conflated with Westernisation,  and in any event many of our people want a share in the benefits of the current production system. What is interesting though is the sequence of the transition to democratic polities is important, it was a change in production that led to progressive movements making changes (regency to merchant rule, Welfare state etc.) Instead of the instrumentalism Africa got, free markets and democracy go together, institutionally. The Tocquevillian thesis (as problematic as he was on Algeria vis a vis his position on America) sequence is different. Structural change in production led to change in governance. Not the other way around.
If we follow this, it means that impediments to structural change need a focus. The past is important, and we need clarity on that as it all evolves, but I think we need a better understanding of the shaping of production, productive forces, and the impediments to structural change. In this light, we need to see what institutions (historically or presently) are important for such a change, in the sense they are relevant to emulation, and which are not (separating modernisation from weseternisation). 

The lessons of production are not taken adequately into account even though it is long pedigree. If we look at Haiti, the French insisted on debt repayments from the new Black Republic
, and if hard currency was not to be had, they kept the agricultural production as this is what France wanted in lieu of currency.The US is also still sore that blacks were able to emancipate themselves. A sore point that the US punishes the Haitians for, as reflected in its current treatment of Haiti. Bill Clinton even said, we blew it, in reference to the policies on food. Yet the free were still slaves in that they were in the same occupations - knowingly or not, retaining the social relations that were formed prior to the first Black Republic.

Production, or what we do for a living has far greater implications for the polity than our alienated existence allows us to appreciate...Africans are still hewers of wood and drawers of water...what does this productive structure mean for governance? This is not fully addresssed in your critique so as to allow selection of institutional forms (so I am not endorsing their theory, but what is relevant in it for us) for emulation

It is time to move beyond critique and regaling of iniquitous history. We need more principled opportunism in assessing how we achieve structural change. Latin America is moving, Asia is reinventing its own form of capitalism and Africa is being flattered for increasing its international trade (as it is just now recovered back the level it was in the early 1980s).

All our leaders do go to China, and still do not bring us back the insights of the importance of domestic production! And this is reflected in academic circles as well. Its (production) importance should be notable by its absence in the shaping of the discussion.


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