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Albert Hirschman and his controversial research report

Ana Bianchi ()

No 2011_03, Working Papers, Department of Economics from University of São Paulo (FEA-USP)

Abstract: During the early nineteen sixties, Albert Hirschman negotiated with the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development, part of the World Bank group, the financial support that he needed for an extended visit to several WB development projects scattered throughout the poor areas of the world. The document where he reports his visit was the matter of much controversy between the IBRD staff and Hirschman. One of the major points of disagreement was the latter´s refusal to employ the technique of cost-benefit analysis, then very popular at the WB, as a measure of the success of a project. Hirschman claimed that a one-dimensional scale was unable to grasp the various indirect effects of a project, which, he argued, were so varied as to escape detection by one or even several criteria uniformly applied to all projects. The paper claims that the strong negative reaction that Hirschman found among the WB economists was a crucial factor in his decision to leave the strict realm of economics and to embrace the broader social sciences themes of his subsequent writings.

Keywords: Hirschman; World Bank; economic development; development economics (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: B20 B31 O1 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2011-10-26
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