Economic Backwardness and Catching Up: Brazilian Agriculture, 1964-2014

International Journal of the Commons, Vol. 10, No 1 2016

26 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2016 Last revised: 12 May 2016

See all articles by Lee J. Alston

Lee J. Alston

Ostrom Workshop; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Bernardo Mueller

Universidade de Brasilia

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 1, 2016

Abstract

Alexander Gerschenkron understood the development of backward countries as a contextual process that varied from country to country depending on which perquisites were present or absent. In the past twenty years, Brazilian agriculture evolved from “backward” to an agricultural powerhouse. Its production and total factor productivity more than doubled. Brazil is in the worlds’ top five producers of coffee, soybeans, oranges, beef and corn. Yet, some segments of agriculture lag far behind. We draw on the insights of Gerschenkron and Albert Hirschman, inter alia to conceptualize the development process. As an illustrative aid we apply fitness landscapes to the process of development. Fitness landscapes are good representations of a contextual view of development. We portray the process as an evolutionary search for good designs across a large, uncertain and not pre-statable set of possibilities. In such circumstances a controlled strategy of following predetermined stages is not effective. Rather we need an approach relying on creativity and imagination to find solutions to specific problems faced by each country.

Keywords: Latin America, Economic History, Development, New Institutional Economics

Suggested Citation

Alston, Lee J. and Mueller, Bernardo, Economic Backwardness and Catching Up: Brazilian Agriculture, 1964-2014 (February 1, 2016). International Journal of the Commons, Vol. 10, No 1 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2732660

Lee J. Alston (Contact Author)

Ostrom Workshop ( email )

513 N. Park Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47408–3895
United States

HOME PAGE: http://ostromworkshop.indiana.edu/alston/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Bernardo Mueller

Universidade de Brasilia ( email )

Dept. de Economia
Universidade de Brasilia
Brasilia, DF 70910-900
Brazil
55 61 981110349 (Phone)
55 61 3349-1303 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://bpmmueller.wixsite.com/bernardo-mueller

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