11 Rethinking Development Theory: Insights from East Asia and Latin America (1989)

Gary Gereffi



The highly industrialized countries in East Asia and Latin America have been a fertile spawning ground for a variety of theories and concepts dealing with Third World development. However, the weight of the evidence used in support of these approaches typically has been quite uneven across the two regions. The theories and concepts often are biased because they reflect events in only some of the East Asian and Latin American nations, leading them to misrepresent the reality of the others.

This essay is an effort to rethink some of the key suppositions of development theory and to identify the fallacies that have been generated by a selective reading of the evidence from East Asia and Latin America. Although the East Asian and Latin American nations by no means cover the entire spectrum of development possibilities in the Third World, they are a good base from which to build solid comparative generalizations because they embody different routes to industrial success. This suggests that there are a number of alternative paths of national development.

The first part of this essay outlines several theoretical perspectives on development that highlight key features of the East Asian and Latin American experiences. While these perspectives offer some important insights, each one is flawed by attempts to generalize beyond the cases that gave rise to the insight itself. ...

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