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Albert Otto Hirschman Biography

(1915– ), The Strategy of Economic Development, Exit, Voice and Loyalty, The Passions and the Interests

economic economics market social

American economist, born in Berlin, educated at the Sorbonne, the London School of Economics, and the University of Trieste. An active anti-fascist in the 1930s, he fled Nazi- occupied France for the USA in 1941, subsequently holding academic posts at Yale, Columbia, Harvard, and Princeton. In The Strategy of Economic Development (1958) Hirschman first displayed that independent turn of mind which became the hallmark of his approach to economics; in discussing underdevelopment, he rejected both the solution of leaving the problem entirely to the market and also that of entrusting it to extensive state co-ordination and control of economic activity. In Exit, Voice and Loyalty (1970) the subject was individuals' responses to ‘disorder’ in their social lives. Starting from the simple observation that free people could either leave (‘exit’) or complain (‘voice’) in such situations, he indicated how certain conditions of the economic and political world acted either to constrain or foster these possibilities (which he thought of as basic rights). In The Passions and the Interests (1977) he turned to the history of social thought to see what he might learn about civilization and its discontents from previous arguments for and against ‘capitalism’. In later years Hirschman has been preoccupied with exposing the pretensions of economists who think their science gives unambiguous answers to the questions it asks (Rival View of Market Society and Other Essays, 1986).

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