Chalmers Johnsons development state theory

Chalmers Johnson’s development state theory

The two illustrious propounders who initiated work on the concept of “developmental state approach” are Chalmers Johnson and Peter Evans.

Chalmers Johnson’s pioneering work on ‘developmental state’ is based on his study on Japan. To define the developmental state, Johnson juxtaposes Japan’s plan rational system on the one hand and the market rational system on the other. Johnson advocated three arguments with regard to developmental state in Japan. According to Johnson, the markets do not exist and act in isolation but that they are being created by the state and political system of a country. Secondly, before fixing any developmental priorities and initiating any development actions the creation of a developmental state first came to being. Finally, the most crucial element of the developmental state is not its economic policy, but its ability to mobilize the nation around economic development, even within a capitalist system.

The three distinctive features of Johnson’s developmental state model are:

(i) developmental state has a small number of bureaucrats who are less expensive to initiate the activities of development policies and programmes;

(ii) the political atmosphere provides sufficient grounds to foster a high degree of prestige, legitimacy and authority in establishment of effective ties between the government agency and the private sector;

(iii) finally state ensures policy instruments which give necessary authority to the bureaucrats to carry forwards state intervention in the economy without undermining market principles. Basing on all these arguments, Johnson was of the view that the development state has to directly interfere in the development affairs of the economy rather than depending on the market forces to allocate resources for development. He was of the opinion that the state must first of all be a development state and only then a regulatory state, a welfare state, an equality state or whatever kind of functional state, a society may wish to adopt.

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