Emancipatory National Accounting: The Nigerian Case 

by Maria Bach[1]


The Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which forms part of a country’s national accounts, is the most dominantly used measure to gauge the health of an economy.  However, the history of national accounting, and its effects on our economies, have been informed by the experiences of the Global North, with academic attention limited to the form of national accounting developed in North America in the 1930s and 40s (Vanoli, 2005; Hirschman, 2016), despite a longer and more diverse history.

I aim to break new ground in the history of national accounting by examining understudied regions with diverse histories and contexts distinct from the Global North. Studying such instances from the Global South offers further insight into measurement methods, how they reflect and shape our reality, and the issue of what’s worth counting is not ahistorical or apolitical. While there is growing literature exploring links between accounting and imperial processes,[2] there is much less on how economists from the Global South accounted their own economies. In this blog post, I present some initial findings from the national accounts of Nigeria published in 1962 by a Nigerian economist, Pius Okigbo.

Pius Okigbo, the economic advisor

Born in 1924 under British rule in Nigeria, Okigbo pursued degrees in economics with the aim of contributing to the betterment of the African subcontinent. After attending elite schools in Nigeria, he became the first African to receive an MA and PhD in Economics from Northwestern University, followed by a post-doctorate at Oxford University. Upon returning to Nigeria, Okigbo served as the economic advisor to the Prime Minister in the newly-formed Federal Government of Nigeria. In 1962, just two years after Nigeria’s independence, he published his Nigerian National Accounts. According to him, new estimates were necessary as the previous estimates made by Europeans were inadequate (Okigbo, 1962, p. 285).

Okigbo opposed both imperialist regimes and the “development regimes” advocated by institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank after the formal end of colonialism. He argued that the unbalanced agricultural and industrial development in imperial territories in West Africa could be traced back to imperialist factors, such as the slave-trade, the forced introduction of a monetary system, and the raw material interests of foreign monopolies. He criticised the strong focus on food programmes in these development schemes, which, according to him, merely propped up food production rather than spur investment in manufacturing programs and agricultural inputs. Instead, Okigbo called for policies that would enhance domestic production and managerial skills (Okigbo, 1957).

In this way, Okigbo’s National Accounts contributed to a debate on national accounting that otherwise conformed to standardised practice set in the context and experiences of the Global North. The national accounting framework developed in the US in the 1930s quickly spread worldwide (Bos, 2006). But even so, by the end of the colonial period in the 1940s, officials and intellectuals began questioning whether international national accounting standards could apply to the Global South. Indeed, Simon Kuznet and Richard Stone – credited with development of the National Accounting System – doubted that their method, conceptualised for the “advanced” economies, would apply universally (Morgan, 2009, p. 10). Okigbo’s contributions showed how national income accounting could be adapted to the Nigerian context, without the need for expertise from the Global North.

How and what was counted

In the 1960s, Okigbo[3] conducted surveys and collected data to estimate Nigeria’s GDP for the years from 1950 to 1957. He estimated national income using both the production and expenditure approach. From the production side, he included agriculture, livestock, fishing, forest products, mining and oil exploration, manufacturing and public utilities, communications, building and civil engineering, ownership of buildings, transport, crafts, missions, government, marketing boards, banking, insurance and the professions, domestic services, miscellaneous services, land development and distribution, residual error, etc. In the expenditure estimate, he included consumer expenditure, government expenditure on goods and services, gross fixed investment in Nigeria, increase in marketing boards’ stocks, net exports of goods and services, and net income from abroad (Okigbo, 1962, pp. 289–291).

Okigbo felt the need to recalculate the Nigeria national account and build a time series, because earlier estimates were problematic. The major problem, according to Okigbo, with the earlier estimates was the treatment of the non-monetary or intra-household activities. Okigbo particularly challenged A.R. Prest’s and I.G. Stewart’s estimate, who has been  appointed by the colonial office in 1950 to produce a national account for Nigeria. They thought it important to include figures for what they referred to as ‘intra-household activity’ (Okigbo, 1962, p. 294). They must, wrote Prest and Stewart, “try to discover the most appropriate forms for a West African economy emerging from primitive forms of economic life” (Prest and Stewart, 1953, p. 6). Nigeria’s national account then, as a “primitive economy,” should include “the output of drummers, beggars, praisers and housewives and […] prostitutes” (Okigbo, 1962, p. 294). Okigbo disagreed and excluded these figures from his estimate, “to keep subjective estimates and imputations to a minimum” (Okigbo, 1962, p. 294).

Prest and Stewart had also included transfer payments, such as “purchase of old houses and gifts to beggars,” which were generally excluded from national accounts (Prest and Stewart, 1953; Okigbo, 1962, p. 296). They suggested these payments were a social necessity and therefore should be included in the national account. Okigbo’s argued that “the so-called ‘social necessity’ [was] no stronger and no more necessary in Nigeria than elsewhere and that the Nigerian economy did not offer any special reason either in 1950 or 1960 for the position taken by Prest” (Okigbo, 1962, p. 296). Okigbo also disagreed with Prest and Stewart’s definition of capital goods. Prest and Stewart included bikes and personal cars in their capital figure, which Okigbo argued could be defined as durable consumer goods – and often were in “more mature economies” (Okigbo, 1962, p. 297).[4] Okigbo felt the need to harmonise the method to facilitate comparisons between Nigeria and other countries.

Okigbo also critiqued Prest and Stewart’s method of estimating agricultural prices. As an example of Prest and Stewart’s conceptual limitations, Okigbo specified that they had treated “all firewood as part of the gross domestic product” (Okigbo, 1962, p. 296) even though it was simply collected, not bought, in rural areas. He therefore treated rural firewood as a free good, while only counting urban consumption of firewood.

Similar to a contemporary economist, P.T. Bauer, Okigbo argued that the Nigerian national account needed to include peasant investment, which was missing from earlier estimates of the Nigerian economy (Bauer, 1955; Okigbo, 1962, p. 303). By neglecting the investments in “the establishment, extension, and improvement of agricultural holdings, whether for subsistence or cash crops,” he wrote, the earlier national accounts “neglect[ed] all capital formation in the nonmonetary sector” (Bauer, 1955, p. 410). As this sector made up a large proportion of the Nigerian economy, the figures were misleading. Okigbo thus included what he labeled “peasant investment” (Okigbo, 1962, p. 303), which “[took] the form of new seedlings, clearing and preparing new land, purchase of new farm implements, and inventory accumulation” (Okigbo, 1962, p. 303). In contrast to Okigbo’s argument against including beggars and housewives etc., Okigbo argued for including the peasant’s investments in these assets, because they yielded income.

My case study exposes the specific socio-economic and political context within which this measurement took place. We show how counting necessarily happened on the local level, making the figures produced specific to a country’s context. At the same, however, we find that it also happened on the international level. By bringing Okigbo’s estimate into the global discussion around national accounting standards, we challenge the tendency to continuously emphasise how specific and different the Global South realities are from the Global North.

Shifting the focus to economists from the Global South, rather than their colonisers, offers room to new perspectives on what national accounting did for the Global South and what was worth accounting for. Studies that examine the imperial practises of counting their foreign territories have uncovered how national accounting was yet another tool to govern, control and suppress the populations of the Global South. My study shows the contrary: economists from the Global South used national accounting as an emancipatory tool. Okigbo wanted to count the Nigerian economy the way he saw fit, not the way the British had done before. Nigeria could, argued Okigbo, become its own nation on the world stage with a comparable GDP figure. 


Bauer, P.T. (1955) ‘The Economic Development of Nigeria’, Journal of Political Economy, 63(5), pp. 398–411.

Bos, F. (2006) ‘A History of National Accounting’, The Economic History Review, 59(4), pp. 872–873.

Davie, S. (2007) ‘A colonial “social experiment”: Accounting and a communal system in British-ruled Fiji’, Accounting Forum, 31(3), pp. 255–276.

Davie, S.S. and McLean, T. (2017) ‘Accounting, cultural hybridisation and colonial globalisation: a case of British civilising mission in Fiji’, Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 30(4), pp. 932–954.

Deane, P. (1953) Colonial Social Accounting. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hirschman, D.A. (2016) Inventing the Economy Or: How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the GDP. University of Michigan, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

Kalpagam, U. (2014) Rule by Numbers: Governmentality in Colonial India. Lexington Books.

Morgan, M.S. (2009) Seeking Parts, Looking for Wholes, History of Observation in Economics Working Paper Series. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1496882.

Neu, D. and Graham, C. (2006) ‘The birth of a nation: Accounting and Canada’s first nations, 1860-1900’, Accounting, Organizations and Society, 31(1), pp. 47–76. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aos.2004.10.002.

Okigbo, P. (1957) ‘Factors in West African Economic History’, Journal of World History/Cahiers d’histoire mondiale, 4(1), pp. 218–230.

Okigbo, P. (1962) ‘Nigerian National Accounts, 1950-7’, The review of income and wealth, (1), pp. 285–306.

O’Regan, P. (2010) ‘“A dense mass of petty accountability”: Accounting in the service of cultural imperialism during the Irish Famine, 1846-1847’, Accounting, Organizations and Society, 35(4), pp. 416–430.

Prest, A.R. and Stewart, I.G. (1953) The National Income of Nigeria 1950-51, Colonial Research Studies. London: H.M. Stationary Office for the Colonial Office. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2307/2227907.

Vanoli, A. (2005) A History of National Accounting. Amsterdam: IOS Press.

[1] Maria Bach is a postdoc at the Walras-Pareto Centre at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. This blog post is part of an ongoing project to examine instances of national accounting in the Global South. Wilhelm Aminoff also contributed to understanding this Nigerian case.

[2] See e.g., (Neu and Graham, 2006; Davie, 2007; O’Regan, 2010; Kalpagam, 2014; Davie and McLean, 2017)

[3] Along with E. F. Jackson, although the estimate was finally published by the government in 1962 under only Okigbo’s name.

[4] Okigbo was likely referring to the internationally agreed standard to compile measures of economic activity, first published in 1947 under the leadership of Stone at the United Nations Statistical Commission. A report based on this standard and published in 1960 , where “transport equipment” under capital formation “include[d] ships, motor cars, trucks and commercial vehicles, aircrafts, tractors for road haulage, vehicles used for public transport systems, railway and tramway rolling stock, carts and wagons” (UN, 1960, p. 29), excluded bikes and personal cars.

The Role of Students in Decolonising the Economics Curriculum

by João Pedro Braga, Kristin Dilani, and Carles Paré Ogg[1]

The Black Lives Matter movement has inspired vigorous debate on the forms and legacies of colonialism in today’s world. Within the economics discipline, it has motivated an examination of inadequacies in understanding structural inequalities, and as a result, how they are reproduced. It is therefore important that we, as economists and citizens, take an active role in decolonising economics. But what does it mean to decolonise economics? How can students take part in this process?

Many may know the meaning of and understand the need for decolonisation, but are less clear on how to practise it. After all, the language and concepts around decolonisation are often inaccessible to students at first. However, this task is as necessary as it is challenging. As part of the Diversify and Decolonise (DnD) Action circle of Rethinking Economics, we debated these questions and posed them in more accessible terms to students across the network in an Introductory Workshop on Diversifying and Decolonising Economics.

In this blog post, we briefly explain our understanding of the need to decolonise economics by reclaiming its political economy roots via active student participation. We argue that, as young people conscious of the flaws of the mainstream paradigm, students play a pivotal role in this project through campaigning for decolonisation of the curriculum. This post presents some suggested actions to help Rethinkers campaign for the decolonisation of curricula. In addition, we present a non-exhaustive list of resources to help their exploration of the decolonisation of knowledge.[2]

What does it mean to ‘decolonise the mindset’?

Decolonisation can be understood as a mindset in which the categories of race, gender, power, and privilege are held to be of historical importance to the object of analysis. They form the foundation from which we ask questions. This definition, arrived at after multiple open-ended discussions with students in our action group’s workshop, implies an understanding that:

  • The modern world was built on the exploitation and enslavement of African, Asian, and American peoples.
  • Colonialism not only coincided with the development of capitalism but it is also foundational to capitalist economic thought and development.
  • To successfully exploit these peoples, colonial states developed purportedly scientific concepts of racial superiority as justification.
  • The colonial legacy affects knowledge creation by disregarding the role of power and rendering invisible the lives and voices of the global majority who are not European or of European descent.
  • A decolonising mindset rejects the structural silencing of non-European voices and seeks to redress it by reframing issues around the experiences of invisibilised people.

Seen from this perspective, the decolonising mindset is important for everyone. Every life has been affected by colonialism, racism, and their intersecting structures, whether as an oppressed majority in the Global South or as beneficiaries of continuing privilege of colonial legacy in the Global North. Indeed, those benefiting from these privileges are often particularly blind to these systemic injustices. The manifestations of privileges in the discipline perpetuate a mindset that hinders critical perspectives, reinforces power imbalances, and undermines the urgent need for decolonization.

A decolonising mindset, however, entails both acknowledging these privileges, but also actively working against such inequalities and inequities. In other words, the decolonising mindset rejects the silencing of non-European voices, rejects racist structures, and seeks to redress this historical imbalance by reframing issues around the experiences of people who have been marginalised.

How to do this in practice? By decolonising the curriculum!

As argued, the decolonisation of economicsimplies a change in perspective towards power and knowledge structures. A decolonised curriculum can act as a catalyst to spur debate and discussion that contributes to this change in perspective. It is therefore important to ask what a decolonised curriculum would look like. In our understanding, it would:

  • acknowledge power as a central element of economics, recognising its manifestations in racism, sexism, and every form of discrimination,
  • treat equally African, Asian, American, and European philosophy, methods, lived experiences, readings, and writings in the curriculum,
  • take a critical, pluralist, and real-world approach to development, including the perspectives of marginalised people on the economy,
  • incentivise students to be self-reflective and ask questions about what they are taught, and actively engage and consult them in the education process.

It is important to emphasise that decolonising is a constant process. Every improvement in curricula, institutions, and approaches to our subject of study will open new challenges and further possibilities. A decolonised curriculum will help in institutionalising this self-reflective pursuit of changing the mindset and of systemic change to create a more equitable society.

What is the role of students in the decolonisation of economics?

In this blog post, we have briefly reviewed the ideas and practice of decolonising economics and emphasised the space for ambitious campaigns around this project. A resource-list at the end of this post offers material for a more thorough understanding of the issues at hand. But how do we encourage this change in the curriculum from within the classroom? How can this understanding be put into practice by students? Here, we offer a few suggestions on what can be done by students.

  • Curriculum research:
    • Investigate an economic issue which is pressing to your national context through a decolonising lens. How to address it?
    • Write a short paper by centering non-Western, marginalised scholars. What writers will you discover when you go off the path?
  • Building networks:
    • Create alternative reading lists. When you’ve got a few books and articles down, why not start a book club?
    • Diversify your local group events by inviting researchers from underrepresented backgrounds via the D-Econ Database
  • Ask questions:
    • Do you feel represented by the type of economics you learn?What do you understand by decolonisation in your context?How can my local group include decolonisation in their events?
    • How can I challenge my curriculum to be more diverse?
  • Act!:
    • Ask lecturers to include curricula that draw upon materials and ideas by non-Western scholars and educators from the Global South,Press lecturers to interdisciplinary engagement with knowledge systems used around the world to make their curricula less Eurocentric,
    • Ask for a dedicated of the semester to projects investigating what they think is key to learn in an ever-changing world, especially if this can be done through a decolonial mindset.

Most importantly, share your thoughts and questions! This way we can learn from one another and build momentum for the campaign. Over the coming months, Rethinking Economics will be arranging calls to bring together members of our network to engage in a campaign around the need to #DecolonizeTheCurriculum. Stay tuned, and if you would like to collaborate with the RE network on this topic, then email for more information.


The following resources were collected when writing this piece, during previous collective web searches for other projects, and for our individual reading. They range from the general issues of decolonisation to more specific topic-based ones. The resources selected here are highly coloured by what we found accessible as well as what was materially accessible to us, as we only recently have embarked on this journey. It can be seen as a tentative list, a proposal, which has the aim to somewhat guide first readers who don’t know where to start, especially students. However, it is not an exhaustive list or a finished menu and does not pretend to cover all topics and discussions in the field. We hope it sparks interest of the reader and motivates them to continue discovering the ever-blooming field of decolonisation.



Teaching tool-kits:



  • Rethinking Economics – Learning to unlearn to relearn: Using decolonial scholarship to challenge your economics curriculum w/ Michelle Groenewald
  • URPE – Decolonizing Economics: A Guide to Theory and Practice
  • Plurale Ökonomik – Decolonizing Economics: Perspectives of young African economists w/ Michelle Groenewald, Bandile Ngidi, and Abel Gaiya
  • Plurale Ökonomik – Decolonising Economics in Practice in cooperation with D-Econ w/ Danielle Guizzo, Surbhi Kesar, Devika Dutt, and Amir Lebdiou
  • Rethinking Economics India – Decolonising Economics w/ Priyamvada Gopal, Carolina Cristina Alves, and Carol Anne Hilton
  • The Sociological Review – Decolonising Methodologies, 20 Years On w/ Linda Tuhiwai Smith
  • Pluto Press – A Decolonial Feminism w/ Françoise Vergès and Lola Olufemi

[1] The authors are members of Rethinking Economics International and co-construct its Diversify and Decolonise (DnD) Action circle.

[2] It is also important to say that this blog post is not an end-all guideline of decolonisation, so if you think there’s something missing here, join us in conversation by email!

Do you want to teach economics more critically? Here are some suggestions

At the opening plenary for the annual Rethinking Economics for Africa festival, Professor Jayati Ghosh spoke of the importance of curriculum reform in economics, stressing the need to rethink the traditional divisions between sub-fields within mainstream economics. By now it is well understood that this schematic separation of studying  individual behavior into the domain of microeconomics, aggregates within macroeconomics, and issues of underdeveloped economies in development economics, sits at odds with each other, and with the real working of economies. 

This has serious implications for the teaching of economics, including both curriculum reform and pedagogy. In this post, we would like to provide fellow educators and students with a few concrete suggestions for resources that could be helpful to use in economics teaching that go beyond the conventional textbooks and curricula and also that go beyond the standard formats. In doing so, we are following the work of Sabelo Ndlovu Gatsheni in acknowledging the importance of “democratizing ‘knowledge’ from this current rendition in the singular into its plural known as ‘knowledges’” (p.18). As such, the resources below attempt to show that knowledges exist in a multiplicity of forms.

Each contributor has highlighted some resources (article, book chapter, video, blog, Twitter thread etc) they found to be particularly insightful when using this as teaching material, with a short explanation to contextualize its usefulness, especially how it allows for a teaching of economics through a more critical lens, and how it can be used to address a range of different themes within economics.


1. Bank Munoz C (2017) Building Power From Below: Chilean Workers take on Walmart. Ithaca and London. Cornell University Press. 

This book is helpful in discussing the relationship between capital and labour within the aggregation level of the firm while combining insights from the aggregation level of the individual and state. It highlights how unions can build a strong countervailing power to exploitative mechanisms by revealing everyday practices and moving away from the focus on Western countries. 

#Worker’sRights #Power #Exploitation

2. Nelson J A (2012) Gender and Risk-Taking: Economics, Evidence, and Why the Answer Matters. London: Routledge. 

This book is particularly useful because it tackles a lot of different issues such as the built in assumptions when using statistics and the underlying stereotypical assumptions of business practices and policies. It is helpful for stimulating critical thinking when teaching economics and discussing gender inequalities within the aggregation level of the individual and the firm.

#EconomicAssumptions #CriticalThinking #GenderInequalities

3. Suwandi I (2019) Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Within the aggregation level of international institutions, this resource can be employed to explain how capital-labor relations are reflected on an international stage and what the impact of international treaties have on work practices. It highlights real-life examples of global value chains and the impact of multinational corporations on the dependency relationship between the Global North and Global South.

#Dependency #GlobalValueChains #Imperialism


4. I-peel.org website: The International Political Economy of the Everyday Life

This is an easily accessible source where students can follow up some of the concepts discussed during the modules and see everyday examples.


5. “A United Front Against the Debt.” A speech by Thomas Sankara, delivered at the Organisation of African Unity conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1987

https://www.cadtm.org/A-United-Front-Against-the-Debt  (16 mins)

The urgency and passion with which Sankara delivers his speech demonstrates how the debt crisis of the 1980s was an issue of justice, and of life and death; and not simply an issue of economic mismanagement or adjustment. 

#debtjustice #structualadjustment #sankara

6. Silvana Tenreyro 2021: speech on negative interest rates

This speech by Silvana Tenreyro from the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee is a great teaching resource on the functioning of modern banking systems and the role of monetary policy. It is very accessible and explains the core concepts and real life challenges better than most textbooks.

#Banking #InterestRates

Twitter threads

7. How to decolonise international development studies today? This twitter thread summarizes a speech by Olivia U. Rutazibwa.  https://twitter.com/SussexDev/status/938818818213859328 

This thought-provoking speech by @o_rutazibwa asks key questions that are pertinent for decolonising international development: When we seek to part with coloniality, but not with the desire and imperative of global solidarity and justice, what do we keep and what do we throw out? 

#decolonisingdevelopment #coloniality 

See the full lecture here and the e-book chapter where the speech transcript is published here

8. DivDecEcon on the work of Thandika Mkandawire

This twitter thread is particularly useful to introduce undergraduate students to the work of Thandika Mkandawire. Making use of this as a teaching resource is great if you explicitly make students aware of the work of a very important African Economist, which can also be embedded within a broader conversation about knowledge production and dissemination, as well as which economists ideas are at the forefront of our curricula and which are not. This can make for a really robust discussion around power and more specifically around the forms in which knowledge is often shared with students. This is not to diminish the important work that exists in journal articles and books, but once again – explicitly discussing with students that knowledge can exist in many different forms (including Twitter threads), can be a useful starting point for critical engagement on what is seen as “acceptable” knowledge in economics.

#ThandikaMkandawire #TwitterThreads #KnowledgeDissemination

Blog posts

9. Güney Işıkara: Ecological breakdown: What are externalities external to?

Fantastic blog post that forces students to question the very logic of ‘externalities’ that is so prominent in discussions about environmental policies. The post also, very cleverly and clearly, demonstrates how the concept of externalities can itself be linked to ideology. 

#environmentaleconomics #greengrowth #climatechange #externalities


10. Juliette Alenda-Demoutiez & Daniel Mügge (2019): The Lure of Ill-Fitting Unemployment Statistics: How South Africa’s Discouraged Work Seekers Disappeared From the Unemployment Rate, New Political Economy 25(4): 590-606.

This is an excellent article for the purposes of teaching students about the political economy of data. It illustrates how international macroeconomic data reporting standards (particularly using the Western industrial definitions for unemployment) should be questioned. It is also a great example of showing students how to use qualitative methods to provide nuanced analysis of, in this instance, why countries use international reporting standards for development indicators, even if they do not reflect local realities well. It makes use of 25 interviews with South African statisticians, business representatives, politicians, consultants and researchers.

#Unemployment #PoliticalEconomyOfData #SouthAfrica

11. Jemima Pierre (2020): The Racial Vernaculars of Development: A View from West Africa, American Anthropologist 122(1): 86-98.

This article is especially useful to push economics students to engage with other disciplines. This could help them to see the value of pluralism through the use of an interdisciplinary approach. Asking this question is likely one that most economics students would never have engaged with otherwise: “how do we understand the processes through which racial codes are embedded and naturalised in practices ranging from the management and bureaucracy of resources extraction to the power structure of the world system that places African sovereignty below Western nongovernmental organizations and corporations?”. It can be really useful to set this article along with a more mainstream economics article on economic development. Asking students to compare and contrast these two pieces of work, can help them to see how engaging with Pierre’s work provides a much richer understanding because one is blurring the boundaries of what economics students “should” be studying.

#Development #GlobalSouthGlobalNorth #RacialVernaculars #Race

12. Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni (2015): Decoloniality as the Future of Africa, History Compass 13(10): 485-496.

Ndlovu-Gatsheni’s article is a brilliant resource for economics students as it  ensures the “backgrounding [of] the long term impact of colonialism as a constitutive part of Euro-North American-centric modernity as it challenges the notion of colonialism being considered a mere event/episode in African history”. This type of historical understanding can be really useful to use as an introductory resource in numerous economics courses to better contextualize the importance of decoloniality, which many students may not be familiar with.

#History #Colonialism #Imperialism #Decoloniality

13. DeRock 2019: Hidden in Plain Sight: Unpaid Household Services and the Politics of GDP Measurement, New Political Economy 26(2):1-16

This article discusses the limitations of the standard systems of national accounting from the point of view of unpaid care work. The author provides detailed empirical evidence on the value of unpaid care work in economic activity, as well as a critical overview of the different theoretical considerations of why and how national accounting systems should be improved. 

#UnpaidCareWork #GDPCritique #NationalAccounting

14. Assa and Kvangraven 2021: Imputing Away the Ladder: Implications of Changes in GDP Measurement for Convergence Debates and the Political Economy of Development, New Political Economy 26(6): 985-1014.

This article provides a new understanding of the limitations of the national accounting systems that are globally adopted to measure economic activity. The authors’ analysis of how the standard national accounting systems reproduce global inequalities is thorough and accessible, further strengthening the criticisms of the GDP as a measure of economic well-being.

#Wellbeing #PoliticalEconomy #GDPCritique

15. Johnston and Land-Kazlauskas 2019: Organizing on-demand: Representation,voice, and collective bargaining in the gig economy. Conditions of Work and Employment Series (94). Geneva: ILO. 

This ILO working paper discusses a timely topic of workers rights in the gig economy. It gives an in-depth overview of the theories and empirical evidence of different forms of collective organising, and a critical analysis of how the emerging new forms of employment impact on workers’ and the economy’s well-being.

#WorkersRights #GigEconomy #Employment


16. Green New Deal Group Report 2019: Joined-up policies to solve the triple crunch of the credit crisis, climate change and high oil prices

This is a very timely report from the Green New Deal Group Report based at the New Economics Foundation. How they link key challenges facing many economies (inequality, environmental degradation and climate change) to macroeconomic policy and systemic factors related to e.g. financial systems is particularly helpful.

#Environment #Ecological #Inequality


17. The Rate of Exploitation (The Case of the iPhone)

This pamphlet produced by Tricontinental is very helpful for both explaining Marx’s concept of labor exploitation and also for showing how it can be applied to the production of the iPhone specifically. It is great to demonstrate how theory can help inform the categories that we employ and how we understand a ‘real’ issue related to global production. 

This list is not intended to be a comprehensive or exhaustive list, but we hope it will be a potentially useful starting point for lecturers and/or students, to discuss more critical resources than are commonly part of an economics curricula.

These 17 suggestions have been used in teaching by Ariane Agunsoye, Michelle Meixieira Groenewald, Ingrid Harvold Kvangraven and Hanna Szymborska. 

Decolonising economics teaching, Part 1: Some thoughts on the curriculum

Ariane Agunsoye, Michelle Groenewald, and Ingrid Harvold Kvangraven[1]

As it is becoming increasingly clear that the social sciences, including economics, have Eurocentric and colonial roots that need to be challenged (see e.g. Charusheela and Zein-Elabdin 2004), the question of how to do so is often not adequately engaged with (Bhambra et al. 2018). For this reason, D-Econ has established a working group to discuss how to think about decolonising academia in praxis: in research, teaching, academic partnerships, publishing, hiring and promotion practises, conference organising, and more.

We have decided to share our discussions and thoughts in a series of blogs in order to stimulate debate and critical thinking about these questions, and also to seek feedback and contributions from students, academics, and other members of society beyond the D-Econ network itself.

As many of us grapple with teaching  – as students or lecturers – we start our first post with some ideas around decolonising economics curricula, while the second one is on decolonising pedagogy. Given that decolonisation is a process and a collective endeavour, we strongly encourage you to make use of the ‘comment’ feature to provide feedback, to highlight where you might differ with some of the points we have raised and to share your ideas about decolonising curricula. This post is not intended to be prescriptive, but hopefully an opportunity for meaningful discussions and more engagement on a topic too easily dismissed and often largely unaddressed by many in the economics discipline.

Decolonisation as process

Before we launch into a discussion of how we might think through the process of decolonising the curriculum and what it can entail in practice, we want to emphasise that decolonisation is a much bigger and wider process than simply challenging the colonial university. Nonetheless, universities were also key sites through which colonialism was institutionalised and naturalised, so they are an important institution to challenge within broader anti-colonial efforts. These efforts to decolonise the curriculum itself should therefore be embedded in a wider approach to decolonising the university and society.

We take seriously the contributions made by Nayantara Sheoran Appleton that it is our “obligation as academics to make plans for a decolonized academia… and hold people to account who use this amazingly powerful word recklessly for their own self-interest.” As such, when thinking of ways to decolonise in practice, we must consider in which ways we – or others – may be perpetuating colonial inequalities and think deeply about to what extent we are challenging colonial hierarchies with our praxis.

As per some of Appleton’s suggestions, as members of D-Econ we believe decolonising the university involves diversifying curricula, digressing from the canon – as the canon itself is politically shaped -, decentring knowledge and knowledge production from the imperialist core, exposing and challenging existing hierarchies, disinvesting from citational power structures and diminishing some voices while magnifying others. Some of the questions we suggest below may allow us to act on these, in order to work towards the longer term goal of decolonising economics.

Moreover, we want to caution against what decolonisation is not. In some instances, “Decolonising” in economics has become a buzzword, despite its radical roots in other social sciences. And as with all buzzwords, there is a risk of widespread misunderstandings and confusion about what it actually entails (amounting to what Shringarpure aptly called ‘fake decolonization’). While the examples listed below, can be valuable, they are not sufficient to take on the challenge of decolonising economics curricula:

  • Retaining core economic curricula, but introducing economic history
  • Retaining core economic curricula, but introducing scholars based elsewhere or that are not white men, in order to diversify the curriculum
  • Retaining core economic curricula, but introducing more empirical case studies
  • Adding more diverse scholars and examples without challenging colonial ways of thinking

Economics has much to learn from the social sciences. You may easily find guides and ideas about how to decolonise curricula in disciplines such as politics (e.g. Shilliam, Choat, Sabaratnam) and sociology (Meghji, Gukurume & Maringira), where the decolonisation movement has come much further than economics. In terms of addressing postcolonial critiques of social theory, Kayatekin argues that “economics proved to be the discipline most resistant to change.”

What are some problems with economics curricula?

The economics discipline is among the most monolithic fields in the social sciences, with many scholars “either unaware or actively hostile towards alternative approaches”. Given that there is one dominant theoretical framework in the mainstream of the field – neoclassical economics – the curriculum often presents economics as a set of (neoclassical) principles, rather than neoclassical economics as one theoretical entry point among many. This has the effect of making it seem like economics is apolitical, neutral and objective – rather than a discipline filled with competing views of how the economy functions. In many textbooks, students are taught to “think like an economist”, which involves thinking like a neoclassical economist, which thereby involves students having to fit economic questions into pre-existing frames, such as marginal utility, comparative advantage, utility maximisation, etc (for critiques by heterodox economists, see for example Stillwell or Mearman, Berger & Guizzo). A consequence of the heavy reliance on neoclassical tools is that it becomes difficult for students to grasp structural problems such as colonial legacies, imperialism, as well as class struggle. Within such an educational framework it also becomes difficult for students to see that inquiry in the social sciences is also embedded in wider political, methodological and ideological debates.

How can we address some of these problems?

Decolonised curricula will not come in neatly packaged textbooks with convenient supplementary materials all laid out. This means decolonising curricula may be a real challenge, especially for lecturers that may not have taught any of what they endeavour to add to their teaching portfolio. As with any transformative change, decolonising curricula will take time, effort, trial and error, and commitment. In this instance, we cannot emphasise enough the importance of reaching out to networks of other scholars. Greater collaboration and being aware of what others are also working on, can help to lighten the load and build a sense of community when you as the lecturer feel uncertain about how to take the next step.

To begin to address some of the problems with the discipline laid out above, we put forward some questions lecturers can ask themselves and some initial ideas from us, originating from our own experience or from discussions surrounding the topic of diversifying and decolonising the curriculum. With this, we hope to invite more students, academics, activists, policy makers and members of the public to this important process.

Whose scholarship are we teaching? Pluralism of theories, perspectives, and identities

Given that this post is specifically about economics curricula, the content of our reading lists or the textbooks we use are crucial to interrogate whilst still keeping in mind that this, in and of itself, does not fully encompass what it might mean to decolonise economics teaching. Some questions we might ask ourselves are: Are the theories available to students based on a diverse authorship? Are they representing the real-world with a diverse population? Who might benefit from the theoretical viewpoints presented? Do we provide the context of the economic theories we discuss? What are the implicit messages we send to economics students from all around the world when our curricula teach predominantly white men based in the Global North?

Besides teaching various schools of thought and disciplines, we need to make sure that students leave the university knowing that scholars can come from all corners of the globe and from many different walks of life. Students benefit from seeing themselves reflected in their curricula in order to not get the impression that only certain types of identities can be legitimate voices in economics. Here, we believe it is essential to not only include women scholars, scholars of marginalised ethnicities, and scholars from the Global South, but provide the context of theorists. Providing contexts allows students to see that the scholars they are studying are not speaking from a place of neutrality, and the very fact that certain scholars have become a part of ‘the canon’ is not accidental.

Moreover, teaching various schools of thought or disciplines relating to a specific topic or country context can often be challenging and lecturers may worry that a plurality of perspectives may be confusing for students. On top of this, a host of specific institutional factors, including political opposition to decolonising the curriculum within your own department, is often also a challenge for economists. So you may decide to adopt a step-by-step approach within a course or within the programme searching for allies as you go. For instance, when approaching economic growth theory within a course, you can introduce students to the mainstream literature on this and then juxtapose it with feminist or anti-colonial approaches to growth. On a programme level, different schools of thought could be introduced in the beginning and used throughout the degree when discussing different topics in economics. The key here is to be explicit in showing your students that there are competing and alternative ways of knowing and how the vantage point from which one theorises impacts how one sees the economy.

This kind of pluralism extends to methods as well. Many economics students will encounter econometrics as a course throughout their degree. This places a heavy focus on quantitative methods. While it may be important for students to have strong quantitative skills, methodological diversity will allow students the freedom to be able to ask broader research questions. It might also be useful for us to explicitly expose our students to the idea of trying to dediscipline, in order to break down some ideas around the superiority of some knowledges over others.

What topics are we teaching? Centering key issues and topics that have been marginalised

Another consequence of our monolithic discipline is that the Global North-centric mainstream presented in textbooks is often presented as the ideal, and processes that do not fit with this ideal, including realities in both the Global North and South, are seen as deviations. If we are serious about decolonising curricula, therefore, it is important to challenge the idea that cases in the Global South are ‘special cases’ to be complemented with the dominant conceptual categories of the Global North.

Depending on context, there are a host of concepts and examples that are entirely excluded from economics teaching. One might, for example, ask: what can scholarship on the informal economy in the Global South teach us about ongoing transformations in the Global North? When teaching about finance, could we use examples such as stokvels (often invitation-only, community based saving schemes in South Africa), as well as formal banks?

Furthermore, it is important to teach about urgent societal issues that are often neglected (or reduced to ‘add-ons’) in economics curricula, such as racial and gender inequalities, and ecological breakdown, but also to acknowledge that the way we understand these issues is not neutral. As with any other issue in economics, we believe it is important to introduce students to the rich debates about racial capitalism, structural violence and unpaid work. Moreover, the teaching of economic history, specifically that of slavery and colonialism is indispensable to the understanding of present day inequalities and structural violence. 

Finally, decolonising the curriculum should be thought of in parallel with decolonising pedagogy. See here for our thoughts on how this might be approached.

Positionality statement

Who we are and how we are brought up and trained matters for how we see the world. To be open about our own backgrounds, biases, and potential blind spots, we include a joint, yet differentiated, positionality statement. We invite all blog post contributors to consider doing the same, although we recognize that this may be too sensitive or not feel appropriate for some people. Ariane Agunsoye, Michelle Groenewald and Ingrid Harvold Kvangraven – the three of us – are all white heterosexual cis-women, which has certainly informed the ways in which we see the world and the kinds of injustices we most easily can spot. While Ingrid is from a middle class background, Ariane and Michelle’s working class backgrounds add a different layer to their experience of the world and the classroom. As a German, Ariane grew up in East Berlin which was up until she was 7 years old part of the GDR, as a South African, Michelle grew up in South Africa, and as a Norwegian and daughter of a teacher and development worker, Ingrid grew up in Mozambique, Botswana, and Cambodia, as well as Norway. Growing up white in South Africa, Michelle is personally well aware of the extraordinary privilege her skin colour has afforded her. Similarly, growing up in both the Global North and South, Ingrid’s sense of immense privilege originating in her skin colour and passport have been felt at a personal level early on. We are aware that our positionalities both allow us to see certain injustices more easily than others, but also that our positionalities create certain blind posts that we must interrogate in all social settings, including the classroom. What’s more, Michelle, Ariane, and Ingrid are all fundamentally shaped by their training in heterodox economics.  

[1] Refer to the positionality statement at the end of the post.

A Detoxed Heterodox Praxis to Lead Authentic Diversification and Decolonisation of Economics

By Lynne Chester

The mission of D-Econ (Diversifying and Decolonising Economics) is to promote inclusivity within the content and institutions of the economics discipline due to the dominance of Eurocentric thinking. This situation has occurred because of the longstanding exclusion of alternate views — based on identity (gender, race, geography), and theoretical-methodological discrimination — from the teaching of economics in higher education institutions. Thus, D-Econ argues, the knowledge base and debate of issues to be relevant to the world’s majority needs to include non-white and non-male voices as well as heterodox approaches.

D-Econ’s mission is framed at countering mainstream (conventional) economics. I think this ambition needs to be bolder. It needs to extend beyond the mainstream to explicitly encompass the entire social science discipline of economics.


The mainstream is ‘guilty as charged’. I think many within our heterodox community can be similarly charged.

Many sites that determine ‘legitimate heterodox knowledge’ cannot be characterised as always displaying tolerance and respect for difference. Contributions to heterodox conferences, workshops, journals, teachings, and more, are marred — not just on the odd occasion — by one perspective asserted as the ‘truth’, or reluctance (sometimes even open hostility) for constructive dialogue about the contributions of alternative perspectives. These practices replicate orthodoxy’s ills.

Heterodox economic scholars also have an ethical and moral obligation — thus responsibility — to ‘diversify and decolonise’ their teaching, research, and other practices given our own experiences of marginalisation, exclusion, and disregard by the mainstream. To not do so is tantamount to condoning the discriminatory practices that have buttressed the mainstream’s hegemony.

Diversification and decolonisation will not be — but should be — innate to all members of the heterodox economics community. Deliberative actions are required that require more than — as needed with the mainstream — ‘changing the narrative’.

The praxis of many heterodox economists needs to change. By praxis, I mean the activity of human beings (in this case, heterodox economists) that directly shapes both aspects of social reality (in this case, the teaching of economics and its application to explaining social reality) and themselves as producers of knowledge.


Decolonialisation is not about rewriting or erasing history. Nor can it be achieved by academics and students completing an anti-slavery awareness training module. Decolonisation is also more than the revision of curriculum content, assessment tasks, and reading lists to include scholarly works by women and persons of colour.

Decolonisation requires collective critical critique of knowledge creation through an historical lens — by whom, where, why, and how — to illuminate the embedded colonial practices that are the foundations of existing gender, racial, ethnicity, disability, class, sexuality, geographic, and other divisions.

Decolonisation also requires the ‘practice’ of an ongoing reflexive process given the institutionalised nature, and reproduction, of inequalities in the higher education sector, the primary site of knowledge production.

Decolonisation should not be conflated with diversification. Diversification is more than moving beyond the dominance of white heterosexual Eurocentric male voices in the creation and dissemination of knowledge.

Diversification is also much more deliberative than job advertisements stating that ‘women and minorities are encouraged to apply’, much more than an institution providing training in ‘conscious bias’, and much more than special journal issues, editorial boards, conference panels and workshops including women, persons of colour, or scholars from the Global South. These actions are mere tokenism, as is the advocacy and not the overt practice of theoretical-methodological pluralism in knowledge production and pluralism in the topics investigated.

To achieve and maintain substantive and authentic diversification and decolonisation of economics, the praxis of all heterodox economists needs to embrace a conjunction of interrelated actions. A single action is inadequate for the task. Moreover, unending vigilance is required to embed the ‘gains’ so that these become conceived as ‘norms’.

There are, I contend, four key interrelated actions for heterodoxy to ‘detoxify’ and lead the way on diversifying and decolonising the social science discipline of economics.

One key action is transparency about one’s ‘positionality’.  I am referring to a scholar’s social ontology — her ‘world view’ of the nature, character, basic features, structures, and constituents of social reality — and her epistemological views (how knowledge is created by, for example, observation and induction or model building and deduction). Analytical constructs reflect a chosen research methodology which, in turn, reflects ontological and epistemological beliefs. These should be rendered explicit.


The purpose of social inquiry, and the practice of economics as a social science, should be to explain an ever-changing and increasingly complex social reality. The knowledge produced needs to accord with social reality to be relevant to the many and be able to address persistent issues and crises such as the climate emergency, inequality, and global pandemics. The analytical approach of the mainstream denotes reality as a closed system devoid of social, political, and historical contexts. Thus, issues are falsely framed, and the approach is the antithesis of the research task at hand. Positional transparency evokes openness about the ‘methodological position’ the researcher has taken to the problem under investigation and thus, appropriateness to explain social reality.

Positionality reflects a scholar’s gender, race, ethnicity, history, nationality, geographic location, political views and more. Thus, positional transparency is interrelated with a second action — acknowledgement of the social construction of knowledge, and the exclusionary role that language can play.

Knowledge is situated. Any knowledge created is inevitably framed by the lives and experiences of the knowledge producers (and reflected through their positionality). The language of mainstream scholarship presents it as ‘objective’ and ‘scientific’, and thus authoritative, not influenced by the positions and lives of its creators. This is inherently dishonest and should be always called out.

Explicit acknowledgment that knowledge creation is situated in lived experiences — and thus, are arguments/analyses — recognises that a plurality of explanations is possible. As Sheila Dow wrote 25 years ago, ‘no one knowledge system can capture totality because each is partial, reflecting a vision of reality’.  Visibility of the positioned nature of knowledge will mean greater integrity in scholarship.

Further, the rhetoric deployed by knowledge producers plays a significant role in silencing underrepresented voices, and the reproduction of insular communities. Rhetoric can act as a social control mechanism by dismissing the scholarship of others as ‘biased’ or ‘unscientific’. This should not only be revealed but heterodox economists should consciously seek not to replicate. This, in turn, means clear recognition that the English language actively creates, not just conveys, the message.

Acknowledgment of the social construction of knowledge and language use leads to a third action—a transformative approach to knowledge building and learning. With the inclusion of new information and different perspectives, frank, open conversations can expose the realities of marginalisation, discrimination, and power relations, and societal privilege (not necessarily intellectual superiority) resulting in the ubiquity of white, male, Eurocentric voices.  Knowledge creation and learning then become transformative processes of mutual critique and discovery.

Transparency about positionality, meaningful recognition of the social construction of knowledge and language, and transformative processes for knowledge production and learning are the foundations to enable achievement of a fourth critical action — a decolonised economic pedagogy.

As posited by Kvangraven and Kesar, a decolonised economic pedagogy is effectively structured around at least the following: the economy is consistently treated as embedded within the social sphere; explicit acknowledgement of the bias and values inherent to different perspectives, and the repression of some epistemologies by others; not relying on one perspective or approach nor advocating universality of explanation; exposing students to the Eurocentric underpinnings of different theoretical perspectives; the presentation of knowledge within its colonial and post-colonial contexts; exposing the spectrum of power inequalities within communities; and, taking a student-centred approach to pedagogy requiring teacher-student co-responsibility to create a common co-operative learning space and to create knowledge.

Ongoing attention and effort focused on these four interrelated actions as a conjunction — by all heterodox economists, not a few — will drive meaningful change to the practice and teaching of economics through authentic diversification and decolonisation. If not, the praxis of heterodoxy will remain as susceptible to charges of insularity, bias, and discrimination as the mainstream.

These comments extend those I made, earlier this year, as a participant in the URPE@ASSA panel Diversity in Heterodox Economics: Radical Solutions for an Old Problem organised by D-Econ, and the inaugural webinar of the Association of Heterodox Economics series Heterodox Economics Goes Global .

Lynne Chester is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney.

Note: This post was originally published at the Progress in Political Economy (PPE) blog and is reproduced here with the permission of the author.

Image credit: Brooke Anderson