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The political economy of development
This academic site promotes excellence in teaching and researching economics and development, and the advancing of describing, understanding, explaining and theorizing.
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                     (by Róbinson Rojas Sandford)(1996)

Since modern research on development was initiated by Latin American
scholars (mainly in Argentina, Brazil and Chile) in the late 1950s
it has been focused on discrete but interrelated DEVELOPMENT ISSUES
at the micro (national) and macro (international) level (i.e., 
sustainability, institutional capacity and capability, poverty 
reduction, empowerment, gender relations, environmental protection,
new instances of colonialism and/or imperialism, global economy,
terms of trade, dependency, etc.), which calls for a multidisciplinary
perspective leading to the constant/dynamic creation of 
interdisciplinary methods of interpretation and intervention as a 
complement to the methodologies applied by the individual disciplines
involved. As expressed in a very well known text "social change depends
on historical alternatives. In the tensions between groups with 
divergent interests and directions, it finds the filter through which
the purely economic influence have to pass" (F. H. Cardoso, Empresario
Industrial e Desenvolvimento Economico No Brasil, Sao Paulo, Difusao
Europeia do Livro, 1964). 

     In the late 1990s, development research, following the path
of development studies in Western European and North American
universities, have been concerned almost totally with how
international agencies can and should encourage development, and
very little with the empirical study of social change as taking
place in a global environment in which the policy framework at the
international level reduces the scope for manoeuvre at the national
level. By and large, contemporary research in development has become
a "subcontracting" activity, where the financing bodies are the World
Bank, the International Monetary Fund and large transnational
corporations, all of them interested in imposing a particular type of
"modernisation" on less developed societies, regardless the suffering
inflicted on large sectors of the population. Other sources of finance,
of course, are governmental organizations in the industrialized
countries interested more on expanding their trade than helping to 
"develop" other societies. Thus, by and large, contemporary
development research became a third rate non-scientific
activity loosing the scientific ground conquered in the 1960s and
early 1970s mainly by Latin American scholars and by very few academics
in the United States and Western Europe.

About this type of intellectual dishonesty see
 R. Rojas, "International Capital and Intellectual dishonesty"

Our students are challenged to reconsider that role as traditional 
subcontracted researchers and take advantage of the scope for 
critical studies. Moreover, our interdisciplinary  approach to issues
and techniques challenge the students to participate in a process to 
rescue development research from a situation such as described above.

As defined elsewhere, research methods have been conceptualized
as tools to be used for answering specific questions and for
solving different scientific or practical problems. Thus, it is
the substance of the matter -the questions to be answered- that
must guide the selection of methods, not viceversa. From the
above is easy to see that our students have to be trained in
methodology, techniques and tools which enable them to undertake
further research (doctoral) and/or practical research with
participatory purposes (which is the rationale behind NGOs).

Therefore, our students must have access to massive amounts of
raw data and to alternative  points of view that make possible
the building of methods and models leading to describe, understand,
explain and theorize development issues in such a way that such a
research contributes to further understanding of the dynamic of social
change in societies trying to survive in an international context
which, most of the time, is a constraint imposed on national
strategies. This access is facilitated by RROJAS DATABANK FOR
DEVELOPMENT STUDIES. Actually, its main purpose is to supply 
information which is "food for thought" and empirical data to
put to a test third rate pieces of contemporary research.

The range of issues tackled by our units directly connected to
training in research on development (Developing Countries in the
World Economy; Research Methods for Development Studies; International
Business, Multinational Corporations and the Less Developed Countries;
The State, Civil Society and Development; Human Rights and Development;
and Strategies for Industrialisation) makes possible to provide sound
research training for practitioners (NGOs members) and basic research
training for doctoral students. All those units are assisted by
RROJAS DATABANK on the internet.

The above makes possible for the student to research on an 
international (macro) and national (micro) situation where social,
political, economic and cultural forces are forming "a complex
whole whose structural links are not based on mere external forms
of exploitation and coercion, but are rooted in coincidences of
interests between local dominant classes and international ones and,
on the other side, are challenged by local dominated groups and
classes" (Cardoso and Faletto, Dependencia y Desarrollo en America
Latina, 1967, paper presented to CESO -Centro de Estudios Sociales,
Universidad de Chile, Santiago).
      The rationale can be conceptualized as that methodological
      inventions are required to make multidisciplinary approaches
      applicable. The objective is to familiarize the students with
      the point of view that contemporary issues (as listed below)
      can be addressed at the micro level, and, in particular     
      cases, linked with the macro level, in order to define what
      is the problem, whose problem it is, how to solve it, and
      why it must be solved.

1.- SUSTAINABILITY (socio-cultural factors, institutional factors,
                    financial factors, economic factors,
                    environmental factors, public policies, 
                    international factors)

2.- GLOBALIZATION (international trade, flow of monetary resources,
                   flow of technological resources, access to
                   factors, access to markets, economic exclusion
                   and economic inclusion, flows from poor to rich
                   countries, what to produce, how to produce and
                   for whom to produce; dependency)

3.- POVERTY REDUCTION (absolute and relative poverty, poverty in
                       wealthy countries, wealth in poor countries,
                       rural poverty, urban poverty, ethnic and
                       gender driven poverty)

4.- UNEQUAL SOCIAL RELATIONS (social groups and classes, power
                     relations, gender relations, ethnic relations,
                     important and non-important stakeholders,
                     interest conflicts, unequal relations at the
                     international level)

5.- STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT (market versus state, privatization,
                     liberalization, deregulation; trade, not aid;
                     formal and non-formal sector/activities,
                     demand-driven interventions, employment, the
                     making of an economic paradise for capital)

6.- ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION (vulnerability, degradation;         
                    environmental impact of policies,
                    natural resources management; participation,
                    spatial structures, urban/rural settlements)

7.- HUMAN DEVELOPMENT (political freedom and democracy, human rights
                       and cultural freedom, demilitarization)

8.- PARTICIPATION (people-centred development as against capital-centred
                   development, empowerment, mobilization, participatory
                   planning and evaluation, cultural practices and
                   traditions, contributions in cash or kind,
                   affordability, social units of production or profit
                   making units of production

9.- INSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT (formal and non-formal groups and
                   organisations, social-effectiveness and social-
                   efficiency or economic-effectiveness and economic-
                   efficiency, capacity and capability, good governance
                   at local, district and national levels)

      The above is achieved through  training in macroeconomics 
      (with emphasis on the dynamic of international trade and its
      effects on social and economic stratification in individual
      societies), the philosophy of the social sciences ( including
      the logic of scientific methods; objectivity and subjectivity
      in social sciences and critiques of traditional social      
      science approaches), and the political economy of development.

      Because our research methods approach is interdisciplinary, 
      the techniques become also interdisciplinary techniques for
      analysis (i.e. computer-based data processing, statistical
      methods -both qualitative and quantitative, transforming
      qualitative information into quantitative data, graphical
      methods -with the purpose of training the students in visual
      analysis of patterns, plots, picture analysis,etc). The whole
      assisted by the unit on research skills and the content of 
      RROJAS DATABANK which is constantly updated by me.

In the process of addressing issues and techniques to analyse the
issues, my teaching aims to produce in seminars and lectures high
quality analysis carried out by good researchers, having in mind
that "researchers should analyze the world as they perceive it to
be, untainted by how they would like it to be...", with an emphasis
on the dynamics of development ( as a process of social change ),
and international development cooperation ( as a process of
reducing forced inequalities ).

RRojas Research Unit/1996    BACK