Towards a Political Analysis of Markets
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Article originally published July 1993, Volume 24 Issue 3; original IDS editing is retained here. This Bulletin stems from a dissatisfaction with the way in which the idea of ‘the market’ or ‘the free market’ is currently used in conventional discourse on development issues. One notion is particularly dominant, implicitly or explicitly: ‘the market’ seen as a flexible, atomistic realm of impersonal exchange and dispersed competition, characterized by voluntary transactions on an equal basis between autonomous, usually private, entities with material motivations. This etiolated model of the market derives from the universe of neo-classical economists and, in the world of development policy, serves to provide intellectual support for their prescriptions. This ‘ideal-type’ market has been elevated to the level of an ideological principle and ethical ideal, providing a policy panacea which promises both efficiency, prosperity and freedom. The main theme of this Bulletin reflects my own concern as a political scientist that, by and large, conventional economic theory, in most of its manifold incarnations, has either ignored or downplayed the role of power in economic processes generally and in markets in particular.
Is part of seriesIDS Bulletin;47.2A
Rights holderInstitute of Development Studies