Polly Hill's provocative new book examines the disastrous gulf that currently separates development economics from its sister discipline, economic anthropology. Working with material from the rural tropical world, much of it collected at first hand in West Africa and South India, Dr Hill demonstrates in the first, polemical part of her book how very unreliable and western-biased are the assumptions on which most development economists base their theoretical work. She shows in particular that misleading official statistics are handled uncritically, that the significance of innate rural inequality is consistently ignored and the revered concepts such as the 'population explosion' are in anthropological terms largely meaningless. The longer second part of the book illustrates the enormous relevance and potential of economic anthropology for economists by looking in turn at the true complexity of farming households, labour and inheritance; at debt, social stratification and economic inequality, and at problems connected with the sale of land, the role of women and migration. Taken overall, Development Economics on Trial represents a powerful and urgent plea for co-operation.
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