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Charles R. Hale, Director SRH 1.310, 2300 Red River Street D0800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512.471.5551

Fall 2005


Unique Days Time Location Instructor
39340 TTh
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
BRB 2.136

Course Description

Our ultimate aim this semester is to see why, paraphrasing a recent assertion by the Inter-American Development Bank, increasing productivity, the principal source of growth and rising standards of living, has been a particular problem for Latin America, which has fallen well behind East Asia since the 1960s-and fallen below the overall developing-country average in the 1980s and 1990s. This is particularly telling if we consider how much one continent, Africa, has depressed this average. The World Bank has estimated that "the region's average productivity growth over 1967-87 was zero, whereas the averages for East Asia and the developing countries as a whole were, respectively, 1.9 and 0.6 percent in this interval. Why is sustained growth so problematic in most of Latin America when in Asia, growth has been surging? Latin America has, after all, enjoyed political independence since the early 1800s, received huge and transformative capital inflows between c.1870 and 1930, and, starting in the late 1940s, even pioneered a new version of development doctrine-state-managed industrialization--that swept much of the Third World in the decades immediately following WWII. This semester, we shall approach the subject a; bit differently from usual by taking as our point of departure the evolving relations between the US and Latin America and reviewing the development, principally in the US until the establishment of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America (now the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean), of systematic thinking about Latin American economies. To flesh out an appropriate frame of reference for our inquiry, we shall then explore two contemporary schools of thought: the "geography matters" approach and the "institutions matter" approach. Though sometimes presented by their exponents as rivalrous, they are, as we shall wee, are essentially complementary. Both will help us understand the economic implications of the region's striking heterogeneity and the chief development issues that confront its economies. In developing a theoretical/analytical framework for understanding the region's problems and possibilities, remember that any theory is a way of seeing-but at the same time a way of not seeing. Each draws the focus differently, but leaves other matters out of focus in order to clarify relations among what variables and constants are included in the selected focus. Keep this in mind as we go along, as different analytical frameworks help elucidate different facets of what is an exceedingly complex reality. Each theoretical approach is, thus, a way of constructing a plausible narrative interpretation of what goes on, economically speaking, in the region, and in the development of these interpretations we are aiming for greater rather than lesser plausibility as we go along.

Grading Policy

The mid-term exam counts for approximately 30% of the final grade, the final examination for 35%. Your performance on a special assignment (to be announced later in the semester) will count for 20%, and active class participation for 15%.


(1) Alejandro Gaviria et al., Is Geography Destiny? Lessons from Latin America (2003) (2) Additional readings will be posted on the class website (Blackboard) or distributed as handouts.


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