The Making of a Development Economist: Paul Rosenstein-Rodan and the Birth of Development Economics

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo by Peter Nguyen via Unsplash.

In the relatively small group of the “pioneers” of postwar development economics, Paul N. Rosenstein-Rodan occupies a prominent position. Not only is Rosenstein-Rodan credited with having been the first to fully articulate the “Big Push” and “balanced growth” theories, which soon became the development orthodoxy of the postwar years, but his 1943 article “Problems of Industrialisation of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe” is often mentioned as part of the birth of the discipline of development economics. Rosenstein-Rodan took his first steps as a highly theoretical exponent of utility theory in modernist Vienna, was a pioneer of post-war development economics, a prominent scholar and government consultant and an eastern European émigré with strong cultural and sentimental ties to Poland, Austria, Italy, Great Britain and the United States.

A working paper by Michele Alacevich offers a first reconstruction of the life and thought of Rosenstein-Rodan and provides a first assessment of his formation in career. In addition to documenting the many lives of Rosenstein-Rodan, the paper discusses two crucial junctures in the history of development economics as a discipline: the birth of the discipline in the late 1940s and its decline a quarter century later.

Read the Working Paper