Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

Economics imperialism and economic imperialism: Two sides of the same coin

Cedrini Mario Aldo, Università di Torino
Ambrosino Angela, Università di Torino
Davis John B., Marquette University, USA, and University of Amsterdam, NL

We identify the postwar Chicago School of economics with its theory of economics imperialism, and argue that it models and reflects capitalism’s post-Bretton Woods north-south strategy of economic imperialism. The Chicago School functions as the ‘north’ or the core of mainstream economics while non-mainstream economics, heterodox economics, and other social science disciplines close to economics constitute the ‘south’ or the periphery of economics and social science – a core-periphery view of economics and other social science disciplines. Using the theory of comparative advantage, the Chicago theory of economics imperialism projects ‘trade surpluses’ in the exchange of ideas with other social science disciplines. Since trade surpluses imply capital exports, Chicago School trade surpluses in ideas imply exports of Chicago School ‘disciplinary capital’ – especially the principle, following Becker, that utility maximization explains all social behavior – and as a theory of economics’ expansion into other social sciences implies this will become increasingly dominant in their development. Similarly, capitalism’s post-Bretton Woods core-periphery expansion into the south combines the north’s export promotion of its own high value goods and import substitution toward the south’s high value goods. The resulting trade surpluses imply exports of private capital from the north to the south – a financialization of the south by the north transforming path of development in the south. Thus on our view, in a core-periphery economic world, economics imperialism under the influence of the postwar Chicago School and economic imperialism under the influence of the economies of the north are two sides of the same coin.


Keywords: Economics imperialism; economics in relation to other disciplines; economic imperialism; relations between disciplines

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