October 6–7, 2017
Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, 121 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215
This e-book contains excerpts from the First Conference on Albert Hirschman’s Legacy, held at Boston University on the 6th-7th October 2017, sponsored by A Colorni-Hirschman International Institute and the Pardee School of Global Studies. The Conference was attended by around 50 participants, mostly academics and operatives.
We did not want to go through the long, risky, cumbersome, painful process of transforming the papers into an academic book. On the other hand, we thought that the rich and vivid dialogue from the Conference should also be represented. After dwelling on this dilemma for several months, we came up with an essential and entertaining “brogliaccio”, a set of working materials useful for further research, based on hints and suggestions coming out of the Conference. An e-book, in other words, covering a large spectrum of topics connected to the Albert Hirschman legacy that would rapidly provide the reader with an idea of what this Conference was about. It is also a collective contribution to the question of how to plan future Conferences on that legacy: to be held, according to our program, in the three Hirschmanian Continents (North America, Latin America and Europe) and beyond.
We wanted to show a part, at least, of what is most vital in Hirschman’s intellectual output, and how people have already used it in practical activities. Three trends may be detected in this e-book.
First. Some of Hirschman’s texts were revisited and put in their historical context, their message distilled, not least to show their evergreen vitality vis-a-vis current developments. This was the case with The Strategy of Economic Development, Development Projects Observed, The Passions and the Interests, Getting Ahead Collectively, National Power and the Structure of Foreign Trade, and “Morality and the Social Sciences: a Durable Tension”. Moreover, in some cases Hirschman’s texts were also discussed with a view of orienting present and future research – as with Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, Shifting Involvements, and “Rival Views of Market Society”.
Second. Some of Hirschman’s texts have contributed to our understanding of current problems, and have helped make sense of day-to-day predicaments, tensions and initiatives. Exit , Voice, and Loyalty, for instance, offered a framework for analyzing grass roots democracy, participation in government, reactions to voice suppression, and decision-making processes. Rhetoric of Reaction helped in the interpretation of current debates about the welfare system. The Passions and the Interests offered clues for criticizing the misuse of Adam Smith’s work by market-worshiping neo-liberal economists.
Third. There are ideas running through Hirschman’s work that have been utilized by practitioners in their own activities. Doubts, fact finding, ingenuity and “possibilism” are threads linking many of the initiatives of entrepreneurs, local actors and public managers. The idea of mobilizing hidden, dispersed or underutilized resources is still inspiring development people all over the world. Hirschman’s “observation-based” research method is a powerful tool for evaluation research and practice.
Moving along the paths opened by these various sources of inspiration, this e-book shows in a nut-shell that, contrary to what is commonly believed, a lively link between academic and professional work presently exists and can be developed.