ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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How Elites Determine Development

The Role of Elites in Economic Development edited by Alice H Amsden, Alisa DiCaprio and James A Robinson (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press), 2012; pp xxii + 374, £58.

The Role of Elites in Economic Deve-lopment is a volume of 15 essays edited by Alice H Amsden, Alisa DiCaprio and James A Robinson. This book grew out of a United Nations University conference held in Helsinki in the summer of 2009, where more than 150 scholars participated in examining the place elites hold in society and in determining economic processes. As a result, it is safe to say that the selected essays capture the cutting edge of elite-focused research, not just in terms of how elites affect economic development as the title suggests, but just as much in terms of the role elites play in development writ large.

This book also contains some of the final published words of Alice Amsden, an intellectual titan whose work on east Asian development serves as the touchstone for how scholars and policymakers think about late industrialisation. As those who are familiar with this literature recognise industrialisation in countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan was the product of elite-driven enterprise, whereby a small group of technocrats and business leaders navigated the state towards high rates of economic growth. Coming at a time when scholars and policymakers were convinced that ideologies and factor endowments determined development outcomes, Amsden’s work brought the messy field of politics – and elite-driven politics in particular – back into focus. In doing so, she called into question the prevailing neo-liberal consensus at the time that freeing markets is central for development. She will be sorely missed and this volume is a testament to her scholarly success, confirming that elite studies will continue to be a vibrant field in development studies, attracting the attention of many excellent thinkers from around the world.

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