Ha-Joon Chang 101: The Renowned Institutional Economist
Zatrun Published at March 20, 2024

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Who is Ha-Joon Chang?

Ha-Joon Chang is a South Korean institutional economist who specializes in development economics. Chang is the author of many controversial policy books, such as “Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective,” published in 2002. In 2013, Prospect magazine ranked Chang among the world’s top 20 public intellectuals.

Ha-Joon Chang

Ha-Joon Chang has consulted for institutions such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, Oxfam, and several United Nations agencies. He is also a member of the Economic and Political Research Center in Washington, D.C. In addition, Chang is a member of the advisory board for Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP).

After graduating from the Economics Department of Seoul National University, Chang studied at the University of Cambridge and received his MPhil and PhD degrees for his thesis titled “The Political Economy of Industrial Policy – Reflections on the Role of State Intervention” in 1991. Chang’s contribution to economics began with his collaboration with British Marxist economist Robert Rowthorn. Together, they developed the theory of industrial policy, which they defined as a path between central planning and unlimited privatization. His work in this field is part of institutional political economy, an economic approach that focuses on the evolution of economic practices through economic history and socio-political factors.

Career in Writing:

In his work “Kicking Away the Ladder,” Chang argues that developed countries have used interventionist economic policies to enrich themselves and have prevented other countries from doing the same. He strongly criticizes the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund for this kind of “ladder kicking,” claiming that it is the main obstacle to alleviating poverty in developing countries.

These and other works led the Global Development and Environment Institute to award him the 2005 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought (previous recipients include Amartya Sen, John Kenneth Galbraith, Herman Daly, Alice Amsden, and Robert Wade). As a continuation of the ideas presented in “Kicking Away the Ladder,” Chang published his book “Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism” in December 2008.

23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism:

Ha-Joon Chang’s book “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism,” published in 2011, provides a twenty-three-point response to certain aspects of neoliberal capitalism. This includes claims such as “Making the rich richer doesn’t make us richer,” “Companies should not be run according to the interests of their owners,” and “The washing machine has changed the world more than the Internet.”

Ha-Joon Chang

The book questions the assumptions behind the dogma of neoliberal capitalism and presents a vision of how capitalism can be shaped towards more human-focused outcomes. Unlike Chang’s previous books, which focused on critiques of neoliberal capitalism in developing countries, this book addresses issues with the current neoliberal system in all countries.

Chang’s 2014 book, “Economics: The User’s Guide,” is an introductory guide to economics for the general public.

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