Global Studies Gateway Series: The Myth of Economic Development


Ndongo Samba Sylla
Research and Programme Manager for the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation

Tuesday, October 13, 2020
12:00 PM Eastern Time
Click here to register.

Sponsored by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies and the Institute for African Development at Cornell University.

Dr. Ndongo Samba Sylla will present a lecture articulated on what Celso Furtado, the late Brazilian economist, called the “myth of economic development.”  A Senegalese development economist, Sylla will defend the view that the Covid-19 pandemic could be seized as an opportunity to break from the dominant economic paradigm in Africa in favor of alternative models more equalitarian and more sustainable in their outcomes.

For more information, please visit the event webpage on the Cornell University website here.

Sylla is the author of the prologue of the English translation of Celso Furtado’s book The Myth of Economic Development forthcoming from Polity in the Critical South book series. More information about the book is below.

The Myth of Economic Development 
Celso Furtado
Translated by Jordan B. Jones
Prologue by Ndongo Samba Sylla
October 2020

This classic work remains one of the most incisive contributions to dependency theory in the Latin American context. While agreeing with other dependency theorists that underdevelopment on the Latin American periphery was structurally connected to the accumulation of capital in the advanced economies at the core of the global capitalist system, Furtado went further and argued that the very idea of development in the periphery is a myth, deceiving countries into focusing on narrow economic factors to the detriment of their human well-being. Moreover, the costs of development in terms of environmental destruction would be catastrophic for the planet: the idea that the poor in Latin America and elsewhere might someday enjoy the livelihoods of today’s rich people is unrealizable in practice, and any attempt to generalize the lifestyles of the world’s well-off would lead to the collapse of civilization. Adhering to the ideas of development and progress is not only misleading—it is also a form of cultural domination that stifles creativity and blocks the imagination of alternative lifestyles that would be better aligned with the conditions of life in Latin America and elsewhere.

This prescient analysis of economic development and underdevelopment in Latin America retains its relevance today and will be of interest to anyone concerned with issues of political economy and culture in the Global South.

Click here for more information and to buy the book.