The Stages of Economic Growth, by W. W. Rostow:
Cambridge University Press. 12s. 6d.
An Essay on Econimic Growth and Planning, by Maurice Dobb: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 15s.
The Great Contest, by Isaac Deutscher: Oxford University Press. 10s. 6d.
not so very long ago, it used to be a common complaint against non-Marxist economists that they spent far too much time and energy on the problem of the price of a cup of tea, and not nearly enough on the problems which are of real importance to the common man—for example, the problems of unemployment, monopoly, and economic growth. Today this complaint is no longer legitimate, particularly so far as the problem of economic growth is concerned. Various factors—notably the economic development of certain under-developed countries and the slow rates of growth experienced recently in many capitalist countries—have combined to make the subject of economic growth very much àla mode. So great is the flood of literature on this subject, indeed, that even a Marxist must occasionally yearn for a good old-fashioned treatise on the price of a cup of tea.
Professor Rostow, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is one of the more fashionable writers in this field. His “stages of growth” thesis obtained considerable publicity when it was presented in abridged form in the Economist a year or so ago, and received the honour of a hostile reply in Pravda. Now it has been published in extended form, and its character as “A Non-Communist Manifesto” (the sub-title) has been reinforced by the addition of several new chapters which are best construed as essays in Cold-Warriorship and Anti-Marxmanship and which it would be kinder to ignore.
What Professor Rostow does in the main part of his book, in essence, is to generalise what he calls “the sweep of modern history” in the form of a set of “stages of growth”. It is useful, he claims, for certain limited purposes, “to break down the story of each national economy—and sometimes the story of regions—according to this set of stages. They constitute, in the end, both a theory about economic growth and a more general, if still highly partial, theory about modern history as a whole”. He emphasises at the outset that “the stages-of-growth are an arbitrary and limited way of looking at the sequence of modern history: and they are, in no absolute sense, a correct way” (p. 1). In spite of this, however, he evidently believes that his system can “challenge and supplant Marxism as a way of looking at modern history” (p. 106).