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CEPAL Review

Cepal Review is the leading journal for the study of economic and social development issues in Latin America and the Caribbean. Edited by the Economic Commission for Latin America, each issue focuses on economic trends, industrialization, income distribution, technological development and monetary systems, as well as the implementation of economic reform and transfer of technology. Written in English and Spanish (Revista de la Cepal), each tri-annual issue offers approximately 12 studies and essays undertaken by authoritative experts or gathered from conference proceedings.

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Hirschman’s view of development, or the art of trespassing and self-subversion

This article analyses the work of Albert Hirschman from the standpoint of two basic concepts: trespassing and self-subversion. Hirschman turned these exercises into an art, pleading his case in a manner which combines curiosity and intellectual humility. In a world accustomed to think and think of itself through totalizing models, in a continent where so many ideological models which sought to open up (or rather, force open) the realities of countries were put together and taken apart, Hirschman’s works and intellectual attitude represent a healthy and beneficial invitation to take a different view. This is not his only merit, however. From Chile to Brazil, from Mexico to Argentina, he passed on his passion for the possible to more than a few admirers. In the last few years, a great many ministers, academics and leading members of international organizations have repeatedly praised his contributions. Likewise, many of the concepts developed by Hirschman -his “exit, voice and loyalty” triptych, the notion of the “tunnel effect”- and above all his propensity to think in terms of the possible and his efforts to trespass over and subvert theories (including his own), paradigms and models, and all the cubist and minimalist mental exercises that are constantly created and recreated, are healthy sources of inspiration and interpretation for rethinking the never-ending quest for development. Lastly, notions like community participation or social capital, which are now major subjects of discussion, can also be better appreciated, subverted and self-subverted in the light of Hirschman’s work.

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