Raul Prebisch

Argentinian economist at the United Nations Commission for Latin America (UNCLA) and later at UNCTAD, credited with having developed the dependency thesis of economic development theory. Essentially, Raul Prebisch argued that the colonial enterprise and international trade had not been necessarily useful for economic development – as the earlier theorists might imply. Rather, by changing and gearing the instititutional, production and socio-economic structures of a country towards the First World, colonialism had created a rather unique set of structural problems in these countries – namely, export-orientation and unbalanced growth. Third World countries were not as much ‘underdeveloped’ as they were ‘badly developed’.

Raul Prebisch argued that international trade only reinforcing this ‘bad development’ path. With distorted national institutions and economic structures, Third World countries were defenseless to the distortionary development implied by trade-induced interaction with heavily-financed First World monopolistic capitalism. As a result, Third World countries, Prebisch argued, were being dragged into a state of ‘dependency’ upon the First World, becoming the producers of raw material for First World manufacturing development – a ‘center-periphery’ relationship.

Prebisch argued that protectionism in trade and import- substitutition strategies were acceptable, indeed necessary if these countries were to enter a self-sustaining development path. Prebisch’s work, outlined in many Spanish-language and UNCLA Review texts, did not fail to impact economics. His thesis was similar to modern Neo-Marxian theory.

Major Works of Raul Prebisch

– Introduction a Keynes, 1947
– Theoretical and Practical Problems of Economic Growth, 1950
– Commercial Policy in Underdeveloped Countries, 1959, AER
– El Dessarollo Economic della America Latina y Algunos de Sus Principales Problemas, 1962, Boletin Economic America Latina
– Towards a Dynamic Development Policy for Latin America, 1963
– Una Nueva Politica Commerical para el Desarrollo, 1964
– Transformacion y Dessarollo, 1965
– Interpretacion del Proceso de Desarrollo Latino- Americano en 1949, 1973
– A Critique of Peripheral Capitalism, 1976, UNCLA Review
– Socioeconomic Structure and Crtisis of Peripheral Cpaitalism, 1978, UNCLA Review
– Towards a Theory of Global Change, 1980, UNCLA Review
– Capitalismo Periferico: Crisis y transformacion, 1981
– The Latin American Periphery in the Global System of Capitalism, 1981, UNCLA Review

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