Understanding Policy Space

  • Carlos Lopes


In the 1980s and 1990s, ‘getting prices right’ and rolling back the state were recommended by the Washington Consensus as being conditions essential for the transformation and development of Africa and the rest of the developing world. The stylised facts of the structural adjustment periods of the 1980s and 1990s showed how haemorrhaged African economies were. Public service delivery and associated quality had declined. Many began to wonder whether the market mechanism alone could do the trick, as preached by the Washington-based Bretton Woods institutions. Attempts emerged to bring the state back in and to reinvigorate planning as well as give nuance to the more simplistic liberalisation precepts. Somehow, growth returned and, with it, claims about whose success it was. The debate about a return to Keynesian approaches emerged, generating policy space for revisiting Africa’s experience with structural adjustment programmes.


Bretton Woods Structural adjustment Policy space Economic growth Liberalisation Lost decades Keynesian Agency 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carlos Lopes
    • 1
  1. 1.Mandela School of Public GovernanceUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa

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