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April 29, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

“Varieties of African Developmentalism”

Dr. Pritish Behuria

Hallsworth Research Fellow in Political Economy at the University of Manchester’s Global Development Institute


Analyzing experiences of late development has remained an area of epistemic contention for decades among comparativists and single-case scholars. The developmental states literature – which animated studies on the political economy of the development two decades ago – was first populated by single-country analyses of Japan, Korea, and Taiwan (Johnson, 1982; Amsden, 1989; Wade, 1990). As comparativists began to analyze lessons from examining East Asian success (Evans, 1995; Kohli, 2000), area studies scholars questioned the validity of comparators, highlighting empirical challenges to specific cases. For their part, comparativists underlined the importance of parsimony in their studies, often perceived to be ignoring the criticisms of area studies scholars. Tensions remain within the study of late development in relation to the comparativist/single-case approach. At the heart of the discipline of the political science method, there has been limited disciplinary space to study single-cases outside Europe in the United States. This has further marginalized area studies scholarship while providing motivations for increased comparative research. More fundamentally, there remains a challenge to conduct comparative historical political economy research with the same depth as an area studies expert may conduct single-case research.

The Varieties of Capitalism approach, founded on the ideas of Hall and Soskice, has been influential in developing a comparative historical economy approach to studying different trajectories of European capitalism. The usage of the approach has flourished but remains heavily criticized for marginalizing the role of state and finance, over-prioritizing analyses of the firm and remaining conservative in only identifying a minimal ‘two’ varieties of capitalism. There has also been very limited successful translation of this approach to the Global South and in particular to comparative political economy research on Sub-Saharan Africa.

Most literature on African politics continues to be blinded by the developmental potential in African countries by neopatrimonialism-based arguments. More positive – and even heterodox scholars – have been inspired by the developmental state approach to characterize the growth experiences of several African countries (with limited attention to the original characterization of East Asian development). Yet there have been few comparative studies of the politics of ‘successful’ – though even temporary – cases of economic transformation in Africa.

Through two paired comparisons of the political economy of ‘successful’ African countries, this paper looks at how four African countries developed very different trajectories to sustaining growth in contrasting global political economies: two authoritarian countries (Rwanda and Ethiopia), and two democracies (Mauritius and Botswana). The paper’s central focus is examining how multi-level (domestic and external) relationships between governments and businesses in these countries have shaped their integration into the global economy and the variety of their economic transformation project. This paper uses insights from political settlements and the developmental states literature to showcase how all four cases exhibit characteristics of 21st century dependent development. This research is a product of nearly a decade of research in Rwanda, research conducted over three months in Ethiopia and one month of research each in Botswana and Mauritius.



Dr. Pritish Behuria is a Hallsworth Research Fellow in Political Economy at the University of Manchester’s Global Development Institute. He is also a Research Associate at the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Governance and Manchester’s Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre. He has previously taught at the London School of Economics and Political Science and SOAS, University of London. He completed his Ph.D. in Development Studies at SOAS, University of London in 2015.

Pritish’s research analyses the politics of economic transformation. His two main research projects are a Varieties of African Developmentalism project and a related project on the Political Economy of Diversified Business Groups in Africa.


April 29, 2020
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm