The orthodox model of Anglo-American development paradigm employs a universal, a contextual model of development. Nations which failed to develop were urged to employ this neo-classical model of development since this has been purportedly already proven to be successful. Yet the main shortcoming of the neo-classical model of development is that it failed to comprehend that each and every nation is bearer of various contingencies and exigencies which are contextual to that specific nation.
Employing a universal method across the board to cure socio-economic backwardness is arguably not as effective as investigating the particularities of that specific nation prior to prescribing and devising strategy. Contingencies and exigencies of a specific country are analyzed and treated in contextually tailored fashion to that specific country. The experiences of development are quite complex and multiple; they do not fall under two opposite, dichotomous categories: ‘capitalist’ or ‘communist.’ The collapse of communism and cold war, the rise of globalization with ideology disappearing as source of human identity and the destiny of humanity are not predetermined on the basis of ideological genre other than negotiable terms based on contextual pragmatic analysis.
The debate with regards to developmental state paradigm has been related to what has been termed as the possibility thesis versus the impossibility thesis. The impossibility thesis is primordial by now. The debate about developmental state should move from the impossibility and possibility thesis to what constitutes the developmental state.
It is very crucial to distinguish between state capitalism and the developmental state. State capitalism is disparaged for being pseudo capitalism and uses the market as an expedience of state power. State capitalism undermines and disregards the democratization process in the name of economic success and harmonious society. The argument emanates either from ideological preoccupation and/or objective reality analysis of local and global situation focusing on providing local solutions to ideological bankruptcy.
The possibility thesis looks further at the form and shape of the developmental state - either autocratic or democratic. The option today is on the regime type of developmental state that hinges its success in the triumph of competent rent management. The choice is between governments with good or indigent governance practice. The driving thinking behind the developmental state paradigm underscores how big or decisive a role government should play in the economy-either by the forces of the market in liberal market economies or by coordination in coordinated market economies.
It is obvious that the market does not have an inherent moral mechanism to ensure absolute equality in rents distribution, benefit sharing and correct failures. There are inevitably government failures and market failures. The state plays a central role in guiding and promoting successful structural transformation through competent rent management. Historical evidence shows that countries that have successfully transformed from agrarian economies into modern advanced economies had governments played a proactive role in assisting individual firms in the shift. Markets cannot operate in a vacuum. They require a legal and regulatory framework that only governments can provide. In defining and protecting property rights, providing effective legal, judicial and regulatory systems, the state forms the vital core of development.
Alternatives to development are not lacking; one of which is of course ‘the developmental state paradigm.’ The developmental state paradigm falls under neither of the dichotomy. In fact, this reductionist genre of perception could potentially bypass any ‘alternative’ models which do not fit tidily into the two dichotomous models. Alternative modes of development to that of the neo-classical Western model do not necessarily work on the outright rejection of capitalist mode of development for it does not necessarily propel them to the other extreme pole known as socialism or communism. Developmental states rigorously pursue a capitalist mode of development, even an open economy rather than a closed one.
Late development is an altogether different phenomenon than early development. Late development is not a spontaneous process. It is very different from early developmental processes. Developmental states are born out of the specific exigencies of the given country. The essence of the developmental state paradigm is acting on the basis of economic nationalism. In developmental states, the state becomes a catalyst or an actor with the single, if complex, goal of development. Developmental states enjoy state autonomy, committed leadership, a strong bureaucracy, as well as determined developmental experts who drive the development process forward.
Having a strong state bureaucracy does not necessarily imply authoritarianism or the suffocation of democracy. There are, of course, multiple cases which are authoritarian, yet there are other cases which work within the parameters of democratic rule too. The grand development paradigm is an option strategy. What we need to ensure is strategically right and coherent contextual and pragmatic analysis.
Democratic developmental states try to keep the equilibrium through institutional blending and negotiations among the various interests. Such cases often lead to varieties of capitalism where the state tries to maintain partial equilibrium through a blend of spatial and temporal institutional fixes, while filling the gaps which are usually filled by the forces of the market in liberal market economies or by coordination in coordinated market economies. The success in growth achieved by these developmental states is significant, managing to do in ten years what others do in a century. There is no blight when best practice experiences from elsewhere serve as templates for better performance of late development endeavors.
When the context of one country is fundamentally different from another, it becomes impossible to prescribe the same universal medicine to different cases. Ideologically driven methods can have their own advantages, but pragmatist approaches such as that of the developmental state paradigm can be equally successful. It is unfounded to correlate development failures to neither ideology devoid of empirical analysis of the contextual contingencies and exigencies of the country in point.
Governments of developing countries have triple burdens that include peace building and state building (peace and security), sustainable development that is climate change resilient and democratic good governance. These dictate that development agendas follow the development route of democratic governance precepts and imperatives. Based on the notion of the developmental state, the government has been working hard to propel Ethiopia among the middle income countries registering remarkable triumphs ensuring that the choice of development strategy on the notion of bespoke developmental state model has been on the right track. The developmental state paradigm and theory based on empirical and analytical foundations has enduring relevance in the global south. The Anglo-American neo-liberalism is outmoded anti-statist ideology.
The current crisis rolling out elsewhere, compounded by the global environmental crisis, hinges on the exhaustion of an ideologically motivated system fantasy of development which is ecologically predatory, socially perverse, politically unjust, culturally alienating and ethically repulsive.
The deepening of poverty and inequality have become structural features of the world system, reinforced by the conveyor belts of protectionism, extremism, trade and financial globalization. Finally, it needs to be unequivocally obvious that developmental state paradigm theory is not a distinct ideology in its own right.
By Dejen Hailat