John Toye obituary | Economy

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My friend John Toye, who died at the age of 79, was director of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex (1987-97) and of the Center for Study of African Economies in Oxford (2000-03). However, “development economist” does not describe him correctly: he was also a historian, political scientist and sociologist.

When I first met him in the early 1980s, I was looking for someone who could help me understand the World Bank’s attempt, during those years of global depression, to impose free market policies. to developing countries. My partnership proposal was luckily accepted and eventually emerged as Aid and Power (1991), written by John and I, and Jane Harrigan, and formed the basis of a 40-year friendship.

The 1980s were a turning point for John, which strongly influenced much of his later work. In his book Dilemmas of Development (1987), he characterized the approach of the influential free market advocates of the day as “first to turn freedom against equality and brotherhood, then to overthrow freedom itself”: a dark prophecy that describes exactly not only the behavior of many right-wing regimes in the 1980s and 1990s, but also the governments of India, Nigeria and Brazil today, and most notoriously the behavior of the administration Trump in the United States.

John was born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, son of Jack, engineer, and Adele (née Francis), teacher. He attended Christ’s College, Finchley, North London, then read history at Cambridge, earning a First Star in his senior year. He was a Treasury official between 1965 and 1968, then development specialist, in Cambridge (1972-80), Swansea (1982-87) then Sussex.

His latest published work, The Counterrevolution in Development Economics, a chapter in The Political Economy of Development Economics: A Historical Perspective (2018), edited by Michele Alacevich and Mauro Boianovsky. It is a flashback to the themes explored in Dilemmas of Development and describes the damage economists of the past three decades have done to the concept of development economics. In our opinion, George Akerlof’s idea of ​​market failure in 1970 can and has been used by many economists, of which Akerlof and Nicholas Stern are notable examples, to explain why public policies still need to be more interventionist in countries. developing than in industrialized countries.

John was not only an exceptional development expert, but also a brilliantly kind, generous and versatile person. His support for me ranged from identifying flaws in my business models to showing me how to improvise a bedtime story for my kids when they were little.

He is survived by his wife, Janet (née Reason), whom he married in 1967, and their children, Eleanor and Richard.

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