Celebrating Alice Amsden – SASE Book Award

SASE is proud to be launching its first ever book award, named after the esteemed scholar Alice Amsden (1943 – 2012).

For those who have yet to encounter her formidable works, Alice Amsden was one of the most accomplished heterodox economists in the world, specialized in the field of economic development, as well as a consummate teacher. Amsden, who received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and her PhD from the London School of Economics, became an economist at a time when women held only 7% of the doctorates in the field (in the USA). She was a non-conforming empiricist, challenging dominant economic development orthodoxy by looking at the facts inductively.

With an uncanny ability to see and predict the consequences of mechanisms overlooked or rejected by others, Alice Amsden was one of the first scholars to anticipate and explain how a diverse group of emerging countries, both in Asia and in Latin America, had risen to become established economic powers in their own right. Central to Amsden’s theory of late industrialization was the assertion that economic activity capable of lifting wages is connected to a reciprocal rise in productivity following that increase. Her research sought to identify how firms could shift from primary commodity production to the production of more sophisticated and competitive goods.

Alice Amsden’s insights were multiscalar, starting at the firm and reaching upward to the state and ultimately global institutions. She advocated that development depends on learning to make goods satisfactorily – utilizing domestic markets as proving grounds at first, but ultimately with the objective target of performance achieving global standards. Her empirically informed, theoretically rich contributions continue to serve as building blocks for the practice of both policymakers and scholars – not just economists but also planners, political scientists, sociologists, and others – interested in understanding how countries can and do develop successfully. Even the World Bank itself has recently, albeit grudgingly, admitted that it went too far by requiring the rollback of policies and programs while promoting deregulation of the public sector through the unrelenting pursuit of privatization – that institutions such as this are now supporting some state (re)interventions is evidence of the impact of her ideas.


In addition to numerous journal articles, Amsden published:

  • The Role of Elites in Economic Development, Oxford University Press, 2012, (with Alisa Di Caprio and James A. Robinson).
  • Escape from Empire: The Developing World’s Journey through Heaven and Hell, MIT Press, 2007.
  • Beyond Late Development: Taiwan’s Upgrading Policies, MIT Press, 2003, (with Wan Wen Chu).
  • The Rise of “The Rest”: Challenges to the West From Late-Industrializing Economies, Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • The Market Meets Its Match: Restructuring the Economies of Eastern Europe, Harvard University Press, 1994 (with Jacek Kochanowicz and Lance Taylor).
  • Asia’s Next Giant: South Korea and Late Industrialization, Oxford University Press, 1989. (Awarded “Best Book in Political Economy,” American Political Science Association, 1992)


This text is composed of excerpts from the article “Revisiting development theory: Alice H. Amsden’s impact on the field”, by Judith Clifton, Amy Glasmeier, and Alpen Sheth, published in the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 2017 Festschrift in honor of Alice Amsden (Vol. 10, Issue 1).


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