Figueroa - The Manchester School Vol 72 No 6 14636786...

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W. ARTHUR LEWIS VERSUS THE LEWIS MODEL: AGRICULTURAL OR INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT? by MARK FIGUEROA University of the West Indies at Mona The well-known Lewis model was inspired by one of the models which W. Arthur Lewis presented in 1954. Yet it fails to capture his basic insights, leaving generations of students with the misapprehension that he saw industrialization as a panacea. If we avoid the limitations of the neoclassical recasting and reflect on the variations of Lewis’s models, which he presented within the classical tradition, we can re-evaluate some of Lewis’s neglected contributions. These relate to accumulation and trade as historical and contemporary problems and to the fundamental role that agriculture plays in development. 1 I  W. Arthur Lewis is best known through the Lewis model, which Michael Todaro (2000, p. 84) suggests was ‘formulated by W. Arthur Lewis in the mid- 1950s and later modified, formalized, and extended by John Fei and Gustav Ranis’. 1 Yet this model fails to capture Lewis’s essential ideas. In particular the suggestion that ‘the heart of the development problem lies in the gradual shifting of the economy’s centre of gravity from the agricultural to the indus- trial sector through labor reallocation’ (Fei and Ranis, 1963, p. 283) has left generations of scholars with the view that Lewis saw industrialization as the key to development and that he underplayed the role of agriculture. This is ironic; in as far as Lewis had a sectoral focus it related to the raising of agri- cultural productivity especially in the food producing sector. In adopting a neoclassical approach and recasting the Lewis model in terms of the techno- economic issues relating to sectoral transformation, Lewis’s insights that are rooted in the classical tradition are lost, in particular as they relate to the socio-economic issues associated with capital accumulation. In addition, in neglecting the lessons that Lewis draws from his (open) world economy model the fundamental role that agriculture plays in Lewis’s thinking is overlooked. All of this is evident from a close reading of Lewis’s (1954a) paper, which is central to the Lewis model, but it becomes even clearer when reading Lewis’s later writings on the topic including his reflections on his work as a devel- opment economist (1958, 1972, 1979, 1980, 1984, 1986, 1988). Coming to terms with Lewis and the Lewis model is of interest for two reasons. The first relates to Lewis himself as a key development thinker. The © Blackwell Publishing Ltd and The Victoria University of Manchester, 2004. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK, and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA. 736 The Manchester School Vol 72 No. 6 December 2004 1463–6786 736–750 1 The definitive contributions of these authors were published in two papers and a book (Ranis and Fei, 1961; Fei and Ranis, 1963, 1964).
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second is of wider interest to the history of economics, as Lewis would not be the first thinker who has been celebrated in the literature but not in a manner that has allowed later scholars to understand his true perspective. In
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