Business and Development: how organization, ownership and networks matter

Abstract: A recent wave of research – including the five books we review – argues for paying more attention to business and the private sector when explaining development outcomes. We draw on these books to make four main arguments. First, micro-attention to variations in business organization and behavior forces a framework shift away from a statist literature that attributed explanatory power to bureaucracies and state capacity and away from market-oriented institutionalists who focus on rules – domestic and international – rather than organizations like firms. Second, we identify aspects of firm organization and ownership as key variables in assessing business impact on development. Third, we highlight the development-enhancing networks that grow out of, and transcend, firms. Fourth, we suggest that business characteristics should be both inputs into policy-making and targets of policy. The paper closes with a reminder that beyond its direct contributions to development, business is also a powerful actor in shaping politics and policy in its favor.