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3. Cross-regional Comparisons in Development: Questions, Approaches, and Challenges

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Chapter Summary

Cross regional comparisons allow one to evaluate alternative explanations, specify conditions and causes, and derive general findings that can be applied across countries. A value of the comparison is to refine traditional theories of development. The comparison of Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa evokes key controversies and perspectives in the study of development. Broadly speaking, five general lines of inquiry have been pursued to explain variations in economic performance over time. These can be characterized as historical approaches, structural approaches, policy choice, institutional approaches, and political perspectives. Historical approaches allow us to trace processes and to understand the importance of initial conditions. However, historical analysis is often descriptive and necessarily retrospective, leaving open questions of both structure and agency in determining change. Political analysis has identified the features of the 'developmental' state and the organizational challenges of building developmental systems.

Keywords: economic development; political alliances; Southeast Asia; Sub-Saharan Africa



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