In a challenging departure from orthodox preachments, Professor Hirschman holds that the development of countries with backward economies often can best and most quickly be achieved through a process to which he has given the name “reformmongering”—a name perhaps unwisely chosen in that the term “mongering” has a somewhat unpleasant connotation.
Few fields have become so infested with a priori diagnoses by armchair theorists as has the field of economic development of backward areas. Professor Hirschman calls attention to the plethora of imported foreign advisors but, without denying their value, wonders if the solutions they recommend, sound as they might be for mature areas such as the United States and Western Europe, are suitable for the environment for which they have been invited to prescribe. The conditions the advisor is asked to prescribe or often call for ad hoc remedies, or for a playing by ear rather than from a written score. Orthodox theories and axioms must sometimes be questioned as to their universality.
Professor Hirschman resorts to three case studies: (1) Agrarian reform in Colombia, (2) Brazil’s arid northeast, and (3) Chilean inflation. Although introduced only as cases in point, the conditions in these three areas are so thoroughly explored that the author’s treatment of them could stand as an independent study of the country treated.