William Petty and early colonial roots of development economics.

In: Jomo, Kwame Sundaram, ed., Pioneers of Economic Development. New Delhi: Tulika Books; London: Zed Press. 2005. pp. 249-68.



The seventeenth-century English writer William Petty has been described by Amartya Sen as ‘a founder of development economics’. This suggestion raises some awkward questions, since Petty’s economic thought was forged in the context of an unbridled phase of early modern colonialism. In this chapter, Petty’s writings on Ireland are analyzed with reference to a number of relevant issues -- the emergence of a wage-earning labour force in an agrarian context, the ideology of a ‘civilizing mission’, the role of institutions in economic transformation, and the political-economic status of the state in the colony. In each case, it is shown that his writings provide a valuable historical vantage-point from which to assess the extent to which development economics has surmounted the intellectual legacy of colonialist thought and moved forward to the construction of a truly post-colonial perspective on economic development in the world today.




Petty, Smith And Development Economics: A Literature Review

Petty And Ireland: Historical And Biographical Background

Petty On Labour In Early Modern Ireland

Petty, The Cromwellian Invasion Of Ireland, And The ‘Civilizing Mission’

Petty On Institutions And Their Transformation

Petty And The State: Metropolitan And Colonial


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