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Alice H. Amsden and Asian Development

Professor Amsden, author of Asia's Next Giant: South Korea and Late Industrialization (1989), has passed away. Her contributions to the understanding of the Asian late development experience were essential to debunk the neoliberal views, already dominant by the late 1980s, according to which the export-led experience in Asia was market driven, in contrast with the State-led Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI) in Latin America. She argued that South Korea actually distorted prices (with tariffs, quotas and credit subsidies), that is, got prices wrong, and growth did not result from efficient allocation of resources by market forces. Further, the state intervened directly in production, as a banker and did active industrial policy picking up winners and promoting the consolidation of big national groups, the chaebols.

Following Gerschenkron, who had argued about the advantages of backwardness, she suggested that some of the characteristics of South Korean growth resulted from its late development. For her the two main characteristics that explained South Korean success were the greater discipline exerted by the state on the national conglomerates, forcing them to export, and the Schumpeterian drive for innovation that that processed sparked.

She published several other important works, including The Rise of the Rest. Her views on economic development will certainly remain influential for a long while.


  1. This is sad news - I have used her work with great profit over the years, along with Chalmers Johnson's work on MITI.

    It is obvious that Taiwan, South Korea and Japan are astonishing examples of the success of highly activist industrial policy.


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