Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

Institutionalist clues in Celso Furtado’s economic thought

Nastasi Federico Nastasi, Sapienza, University of Rome
Spagano Salvatore, University of Catania

The Brazilian economist Celso Furtado escapes from the traditional distinctions among different schools of thought. Indeed, he made large use of tools from various proveniences according to a pragmatic approach. Nonetheless, this paper shows that his work also contains several characteristic elements of the institutionalist tradition. In the early 1960s, Furtado placed institutions at the centre of his analysis of the evolution of the economic history. Moreover, he rejected the kind of determinism that follows a concept of choice entirely dependent on the utility-maximizing rationality. Coherently, he opposed the New Institutional Economics as an example of neoclassical retread of institutional issues. Finally, and especially, even without theorizing it, he adopted the institutionalised individual as an economic agent. This choice, rather than that of the homo oeconomicus, implied assuming an agent able to shape institutions that, in turn, influence human behaviours according to a downward cumulative causation.

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Keywords: Furtado, Structuralism, Institutionalism