This article provides information about the antecedents of human development in the growth models of economic development:
“Economic development” or “development” is a term that economists, politicians, policy-makers, academics and lay people have used widely, so much so that it became a household term in late 20th century. The concept, however, has been in existence in the West for centuries. Modernisation, Westernisation, and especially Industrialisation are other terms people have used when discussing economic development. The word development is invariably associated with the idea of progress.
The concept of progress in turn finds its roots in the concept of evolution which had captured the imagination of scholars of the 19th century. For instance when Auguste Comte talked about the progress of society, he visualised societies moving from the simple to a complex and yet rational and scientific state. This also implied that one moved from a society dominated by a non-scientific cultural mould dominated by age-old tradition, to one where rationality and the scientific spirit dominated.
Thus when newly independent nations of the post-colonial world strove to develop themselves, the idea that they needed to adopt modern rational ideas was very influential. Along with modernisation another concept that came to be closely associated was industrialisation. The idea of progress was evolutionary and linear in its implications.
Therefore, the countries which were not developed had to go through, even if by grafting infrastructures and such conditions, a stage similar to that of those which was developed already. The developed countries had a predominant industrial base and of course they all went through a history of the social process of industrialisation. When we examine some of the theories of economic development which advocated growth, in terms of incomes or heavy industries, they were very much influenced by the discourse of that time.
i. The idea of different stages of development as we have mentioned goes back to ideas of evolutionism which finds echoes in Adam Smith and Karl Marx. Adam Smith first noted that every society goes through four stages, namely, hunting, pastoral, agricultural and manufacturing. According to Karl Marx, there are four stages through which every society must go, namely, Feudalism, Capitalism, Socialism and Communism. Walt W. Rostow’s “stages of growth” model of development is yet another addition to these ideas. The argument that the historical experience of the developed countries in transforming their agricultural subsistence societies to modern industrial giants may have important lessons for the developing countries, led to the formation of Rostow’s stage theories.
ii. Following the prescriptions of Harrod and Domar who feel that, the main obstacle or constraint to development is the relatively low level of new capital formation in most poor countries. Arthur Lewis comes up with another variation on the growth model. According to him, investments in industrialisation would attract rural folk to urban areas and this in turn would provide higher standard of living as they would earn more wages. Furthermore, as the level of labour productivity was so low in traditional agricultural areas, people leaving the rural areas would have virtually no impact on output. Indeed, the amount of food available to the remaining villagers would increase as the same amount of food could be shared amongst fewer people.
This might generate a surplus which could then be sold generating income. Those people that moved away from the villages to the towns would earn increased incomes and this in turn generates more savings, according to Lewis. The lack of development was due to a lack of savings and investment.
The way to development was to increase savings and investment. A growing industrial sector requiring labour provided the incomes that could be spent and saved. This would in itself generate demand and also provide funds for investment. Income generated by the industrial sector brought the people into the centre-stage of the development debate, as is outlined in the foreword of the report of 1990. It says: “The purpose of development is to offer people more options.
One of their options is access to income not as an end to itself but as a means to acquiring human well-being. But there are other options as well, including long life, knowledge, political freedom, personal security, community participation and guaranteed human rights. People cannot be reduced to single dimension as economic creatures”.
The report is essentially meant to point out to those aspects of development that addresses human dimensions. It is not meant to be a model of development, like the ones that have been advocated earlier, for instance the growth models. The report is meant to “analyse practical country experience to distill practical insights. Its purpose is neither to preach nor to recommend any particular model of development. Its purpose is to make relevant experience available to all policy makers”.
The human development reports make contribution in measure and policy analysis of human development. While the first report brought in the very notion of human development, subsequent reports have addressed various specific issues of human development — the social, political and economic.
The latest report, for instance, stresses on cultural liberty in today’s diverse world. The report attempts to capture, through figures and facts, difficult and slippery phenomena and concepts such as cultural liberty and cultural diversity. According to the Human Development Report, 2004 “human development requires more than health, education, a decent standard of living and political freedom. People’s cultural identities must be recognised and accommodated by the state, and people must be free to express these identities without being discriminated against in other aspects of their lives. In short cultural liberty is a human right and an important aspect of human development and thus worthy of state action and attention”.