This paper argues the need for the South to secure greater autonomy in development policy
making and discusses some factors involved in achieving this. It utilizes a political
economy analysis in the historical context of decolonization and contemporary
globalization. Part I suggests that, in the 1950s, the new subdiscipline of development
economics made a significant contribution to policy autonomy in the global South by
legitimizing the principle that their economies should be understood within their own
terms and by providing justification for policies that built up its industrial
capabilities. Southern institutions and the United Nations (UN) system also supported a
great wave indigenous empirical research and theorizing in the developing world. However,
as argued in Part II, the marginalization of development economics and its policies in the
1980s resulted in a marked discontinuity in the accumulation of policy experience in much
of the South and the squandering of much of intellectual capital developed in the earlier
period. Neoclassical economics and neoliberal policies ruled out the notion of an
economics sui generis for the developing countries. Nonetheless, developments since
the late 1990s have shown that the triumphalism was premature, as global social movements,
financial crises, contradictions in the World Trade Organization (WTO) process and the
shifting political climate in the South have served to undermine the Washington consensus
and have re-opened space for academic enquiry and policy experimentation in the South and
Part III argues that the utilization of this space
process would be enriched by further interrogation of the epistemic basis of the claims to
universal applicability of neoclassical economics. It endorses the view that such claims
are associated with philosophical Eurocentricity and by inappropriate analogies between
the social and the physical sciences. It argues for a context-specific approach to
economic analysis and policy making that accepts the universality of diversity
and recognizes that responses to economic policy instruments are conditioned by a wide
range of political, social, cultural and institutional factors.
Part IV discusses the contribution that can be made by social
knowledge: the knowledge that inheres within the society residing at various levels.
It proposes a synthesis of the policy cycle approach with the factors giving
rise to firm level learning and technical change, in which a specific
objective is the accumulation of experience, knowledge and intervention capacities in
development policy. Part V points to the role of regionalism in the South in this context.
Regionalisms epistemic dimension relates to accumulation of local diagnostic and
prescriptive capacities for development policy making, linked to democratic participation
in decision making at the national and regional levels; for example, the formation of
regional epistemic communities. Regionalisms instrumental dimension
consists of the benefits of intergovernmental functional cooperation and of market
integration: the former is of particular importance to small developing countries.
Regionalism has also been seen as a building block for the construction of a polycentric
world characterized by equitable development and respect for cultural diversity.
But regionalism is not a panacea: it has to contend with the diversity
of interests among member countries that result from differences in size, levels of
development and economic structure. The experience of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is
analysed to show that issues of national versus regional sovereignty, funding and
provisions for disadvantaged countries and regions need to be satisfactorily addressed in
order to realize its potential benefits.