Journal Issue

Books in brief

International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
Published Date:
January 1989
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Robert D. Stevens and Cathy Jabara

Agricultural Development Principles

John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, USA, 1988, xxx! + 478 pp., $45 (cloth), $17.50 (paperback).

Despite the enormous changes in agriculture, and in our understanding of how these changes occur, a comprehensive up-to-date account, accessible to the non-specialist, has not been available. This book, written primarily as a university textbook, fills the gap. Clear and sometimes elegant in its exposition of theory, and fair in its representation of different schools of thought, it is nonetheless guided throughout by a practitioner’s concern to distinguish what works from what doesn’t. To its evaluation of theory—and also of popular myths and stereotypes—it brings an impressive knowledge of the empirical literature over a wide range of subjects, and a deeply felt but never sentimental humanitarian concern. The authors’ own perspective is neoclassical, and the book makes a persuasive case for the (Hyami-Ruttan) inducedinnovation theory in analyzing the economics of agricultural modernization and identifying the types of changes needed to create a science-based agriculture. Part III of the book focuses on how these changes are brought about; it analyzes the economics of investment in various types of technological and institutional change and in human capital to enable rapid increases in agricultural growth. Parts IV and V discuss the role of government policies and programs in transforming agriculture and influencing the distribution of its benefits.

John P. Lewis and contributors

Strengthening the Poor

What Have We Learned?

Overseas Development Council, Washington, DC, 1988, xiii + 228 pp., $12.95 (paper).

Convinced by the start of the 1970s that “trickle down” was not enough, many developing country governments and many of the aid agencies assisting them pursued programs against poverty under a series of rubrics: employment generation, appropriate technology, redistribution with growth, smallholder-based integrated rural development, and basic human needs. In the 1980s, policy makers’ urgent concerns with external adjustment pushed poverty issues aside. But the problems of poverty are as urgent as ever. Particularly as it becomes clearer that, without special planning, the burden of adjustment falls hardest on those least equipped to bear it, the debate on how to alleviate poverty has been rekindled. This book’s thirteen contributing authors draw lessons from the past two decades of experience. The collection is comprehensive in scope, ranging from approaches to rural and urban poverty, through issues in institutional development, self-reliance and community participation, women’s role in strategies against poverty, ways of safeguarding the poor during adjustment, to the role of aid in efforts against poverty. As Lewis says in an excellent concise Overview, the concern in producing the collection was “more with timeliness than with harmony of viewpoints” or, one might add, with even quality among the individual essays. On the whole a stimulating and worthwhile collection.

Peter Nolan

The Political Economy of Collective Farms

Westview Press, Boulder, CO, USA, 1988, viii + 259 pp., $44.50 (cloth).

When Chinese communes were in full bloom during the 1960s and early 1970s, they were said to have largely solved the problems of rural poverty and income distribution; raised agricultural savings and investment in infrastructure; and provided economic managers with a vehicle for diffusing new techniques throughout the sector. This was before much was known first hand about the working of communes. Today, a decade after the Chinese began dismantling the commune, the large collective farm has few supporters and is widely viewed as an experiment that failed. Peter Nolan’s book effectively crystalizes the “new view” on collective agriculture. Nolan first encapsulates the beliefs and expectations regarding commune agriculture enunciated in the Soviet Union during the 1920s. He then traces the experience with Chinese collectives under Mao, describing the pressures that led to reforms starting in 1977-78 and the changes that have occurred in the first half of the eighties. Finally, he analyzes issues related to the demise of communal agriculture in China. Nolan concludes that, on balance, the nature of agricultural production favors small family holdings. The passing of the commune and the parcelling of leasehold rights to households certainly led to a great spurt in agricultural growth. But Nolan recognizes that their disappearance has left a vacuum in the spheres of education, health, and social security, and resulted in a neglect of irrigation facilities as well as land conservation which only some form of state intervention can ultimately remedy. This balanced approach makes his book a valuable addition to the literature on collective agriculture.

New readers who wish to receive Finance & Development regularly should apply in writing to Subscription Services, Finance & Development, International Monetary Fund, Washington, DC 20431, USA, specifying the language edition and briefly stating the reasons for their request. The contents of Finance & Development are indexed in Business Periodicals Index, Public Affairs Information Service (PAIS), and Bibliographic Internationale des Sciences Sociales. An annual index of articles and reviews is carried in the December issue.

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