From Development Economics to Beat Generation

Here is an economist (and sociologist) describing his journey from economics (of the Chicago school) to immersing himself in the Kerouac-Ginsberg inspired Beat Generation. This in a way is amusing for the intense disillusion (or disgust?) that economic thought can bring about and how apparent outlandish, esoteric forms of literature serve as the final refuge. I am amazed at the distance between these two disciplines and the effortless travel that it is for the disenchanted!

Andre Gunder Frank was a prolific thinker and author. This excerpt is from his autobiographical piece and illustrates the journey of a development economist through the political-economic landscape of the world in 1950s. This is how he puts it (Source: The Underdevelopment of Development) :

In 1950, not knowing what I was letting myself in for, I started a Ph D in economics at the University of Chicago. I took Milton Friedman’s economic theory course and passed my PhD exams in economic theory and public finance with flying colors. Despite that, I received a letter from the Chicago Economics Department advising me to leave, because of my unsuitability or our incompatibility.

I went on to the University of Michigan and studied for a semester with Kenneth Boulding and Richard Musgrave. I wrote a paper on welfare economics for Boulding, which proved that it is impossible to separate efficiency in resource allocation from equity in income distribution. [Later Ian Little would become famous for doing the same thing. Now (Little 1982) also pontificates on Economic Development and dismisses my writings on the same as unpersuasive]. I took the paper, for which Boulding had given me an A+, back to Chicago to get at least an MA out of them. First they made me cut the heart of the argument out of my paper, and then they gave me a C for it. Then I dropped out altogether. I became a member of the beat generation at the Vesuvius cafe in San Francisco’s North Beach before Jack Keruac arrived there On the Road.

And there begins a beat generation Gunder Frank. This guy was too prolific and his works make tremendous sense. An official archive rests here.

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