Once among the fastest developing economies, growth has slowed or stalled in Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. What policies can governments enact to jump-start the rise of these middle-income countries? Hartmut Elsenhans and Salvatore Babones argue that economic catch-up requires investment in the productivity of ordinary citizens. Diverging from the popular narrative of increased liberalization, this book argues specifically for direct government investment in human infrastructure; policies that increase wages and the bargaining power of labor; and the strategic use of exchange rates to encourage export-led growth. These measures raise up the majority and finance future productivity by driving broader consumption and fostering investment within national borders. Though strategies like full employment, mass education, and progressive taxation are not especially controversial, none of the BRICS have truly embraced them. Examining barriers to implementation, Elsenhans and Babones find that the main obstacle to such reforms is an absence of political will, stemming from closely guarded elite privilege under the current laws. BRICS or Bust? is a short, incisive read that underscores the need for demand-driven growth and why it has yet to be achieved.
Generally, the implementation of developing technologies that the majority of the population can use to improve productivity is key to the continual success of an economy. Western Europe and the United States of America developed an array of technologies that continue to advance their economies beyond middle income and to the top of the income pyramid.
Throughout the 80s and 90s, East Asian countries were growing at a rapid pace, primarily driven by the manufacturing sector and export-led growth. These economies lifted millions of people out of poverty, only to start stalling within the following two decades.
In an interview with Readara, Professors Eisenhans and Babones offer an insightful analysis of the drivers of economic growth in these nations as well as the policies that contributed to their economic success.
Hartmut Elsenhans is a German political scientist and Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the University of Leipzig. He was also affiliated with the Université de Montréal; Jawaharlal Nehru University, India; Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad; Columbia University and University of California, Berkeley.
He studied political science, history and sociology at the University of Tübingen and the Free University of Berlin (FU Berlin). He earned his doctoral degree in 1973 with a study on the decolonisation of Algeria in the Algerian War (1954–1962). In 1976, he gained habilitation at FU Berlin.
His current research includes capitalism and social movements, structure of the international system, rise and demise of the capitalist world system, political economy of European integration and development politics and economics. Throughout his career, Elsenhans expanded his work on the book’s topic, publishing a total of five volumes on the subject.
In the late 1970s, he had short stints as a lecturer at the University of Montreal and the University of Frankfurt before settling down for his first professorship (of International Relations) at the University of Marburg, followed shortly by a long-term professorship at Konstanz University. His focus there was on the analysis of underdevelopment, national and social emancipator movements and public administration in developing countries.
Elsenhans took the opportunity to go to Leipzig after German unification, to help build the department of international relations at the university there. He taught there until 2007, when he retired. He was given honorary membership of the students association of the faculty of political science at the University of Leipzig. Elsenhans currently still resides, lectures and researches in Leipzig.
Salvatore Babones is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Sydney.
"Elsenhans and Babones critique development orthodoxies with aplomb, providing clear guidance on what can be done at a policy level. The authors' knowledge of relevant theory and debates, brought together with original data, results in an impressive synthesis of argument and evidence."
"Covering a wide range of theory and empirical evidence, this concise, critical survey chronicles the rise of the BRICS and the policy dilemmas that they face. Highly recommended."
"This is a wonderful introduction to the critical policy problems facing the BRICS and to the wide-ranging and deeply insightful global political economy of Hartmut Elsenhans, one of the undersung giants in the field."