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Walt Whitman Rostow, 1916-2003

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Economic historian and articulator of a linear stages theory of economic development with his 1960 booklet, Stages of
Economic Growth
.

The son of Russian Jewish immigrants in New York, Walt Whitman Rostow
obtained his Ph.D. at Yale in 1939
(with a stint as a Rhodes scholar at
Oxford in between).  Rostow subsequently served as an economics
instructor at Columbia until the
outbreak of the war.  During WWII, Rostow served as an officer in
the OSS (ancestral to the CIA) in Washington.  He returned to
academia after the war.  After brief periods at
Oxford in 1946 and
Cambridge in 1949, Rostow
became professor of economic history at MIT
in 1950.

Outside of economics, W.W. Rostow became a political
adviser to the US presidents John
F. Kennedy  and Lyndon B. Johnson.  After serving as Kennedy’s
campaign strategist in 1960, Rostow became a state department official
and later national security adviser during the Vietnam War, and was
reputedly instrumental in increasing US military involvement there. 
He later taught at the University of Texas at Austin.

Rostow’s 1960 linear stages theory of development argued that all
developing countries must pass through five distinct stages: (1)
"traditional society" (subsistence agriculture, next to no savings or
investment), (2) "preconditions for take-off" (agriculture becomes
mechanised, surpluses emerge, savings begin to grow to about 5% of GDP),
(3) "take-off" (manufacturing grows, political institutions develop,
savings rates increase to 10-to-15% of GDP); (4) "drive to maturity"
(savings steady at 10-20%, growth spreads to other sectors,
technological improvement, increasing diversity), (5) "age of mass
consumption" (output driven by consumption, beginning of shift to
tertiary sector). Rostow envisaged the length could take forty to sixty
years from take-off to maturity. The theory was criticized for its
"one-size-fits-all" approach – and in particular, the centrality of
savings, which was not always evident at the rates Rostow assumes and
for overlooking the importance international trade and competition.

 

  


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Major Works of Walt Whitman Rostow

  • "Investment and the Great Depression", 1938, Econ History Review
  • Essays on the British Economy of the Nineteenth Century, 1948.
  • "The Terms of Trade in Theory and Practice", 1950, Econ History Review
  • "The Historical Anlysis of Terms of Trade", 1951, Econ History Review
  • The Process of Economic Growth, 1952.
  • "Trends in the Allocation of Resources in Secular Growth", 1955, in Dupriez,
    editor, Economic Progress
  • An American Policy in Asia, with R.W. Hatch, 1955.
  • "The Take-Off into Self-Sustained Growth", 1956, EJ [ pdf ]
  • A Proposal: Key to an effective foreign policy, with M. Millikan, 1957.
  • "The Stages of Economic Growth", 1959, Econ History Review
  • The Stages of Economic Growth: A non-communist manifesto, 1960.
  • Politics and the Stages of Growth, 1971.
  • How it All Began: Origins of the modern economy, 1975.
  • The World Economy: History and prospect, 1978.
  • Why the Poor Get Richer and the Rich Slow Down: Essays in the Marshallian long period,
    1980.
  • "Development: the political economy of the Marshallian long period" 
    1984, in G.M. Meier and D. Seers, ed, Pioneers in Development [ ch.9 ,

    full ]

  • "Beware of historians bearing false analogies", 1988, Foreign Affairs
  • Theorists of Economic Growth from David Hume to the Present, 1990.

 


HET

 

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Resources on  W.W. Rostow

  • W.W.

    Rostow page at LBJ School, Univ of Texas

  • W.W.

    Rostow entry at Office of Historian, White House

  • Rostow

    obituary in NY Times, 2003

  • Rostow

    obituary in the Guadian

  • Rostow obituary at
    Economist
  • Rostow entry at American National Biography

  • Rostow page
    at Spartacus
  • Rostow interview
    at Wilson Center
  • Rostow

    interview at GWU

  • "Rostow’s Stages of Economic Growth through Escalation to Nuclear
    Destruction", by A.G. Frank , c.1967 [Pittsburgh

    pdf ]

  • America’s Rasputin: Walt Rostow and Vietnam War by David Milne,
    2008
  • "Review Milne’s Rostow" by J.G. Valentine at H-net
    online
  • "Criticism of Rostow’s Stage approach: The concepts of stage, system and
    type", by Yoichi Itgaki, 2007, Developing Economies. [ pdf ]
  • Summary of Five Stages of Growth [ pdf ]
  • Another summary at Lewis Historical [ online ]
  • Rostow entry
    at Britannica
  • Wikipedia

 

 

top1.gif (924 bytes)Top

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All rights reserved, Gon�alo L. Fonseca

INET logo

Profile Major Works Resources

Walt Whitman Rostow, 1916-2003

Photo of W.W. Rostow

Economic historian and articulator of a linear stages theory of economic development with his 1960 booklet, Stages of
Economic Growth
.

The son of Russian Jewish immigrants in New York, Walt Whitman Rostow
obtained his Ph.D. at Yale in 1939
(with a stint as a Rhodes scholar at
Oxford in between).  Rostow subsequently served as an economics
instructor at Columbia until the
outbreak of the war.  During WWII, Rostow served as an officer in
the OSS (ancestral to the CIA) in Washington.  He returned to
academia after the war.  After brief periods at
Oxford in 1946 and
Cambridge in 1949, Rostow
became professor of economic history at MIT
in 1950.

Outside of economics, W.W. Rostow became a political
adviser to the US presidents John
F. Kennedy  and Lyndon B. Johnson.  After serving as Kennedy’s
campaign strategist in 1960, Rostow became a state department official
and later national security adviser during the Vietnam War, and was
reputedly instrumental in increasing US military involvement there. 
He later taught at the University of Texas at Austin.

Rostow’s 1960 linear stages theory of development argued that all
developing countries must pass through five distinct stages: (1)
"traditional society" (subsistence agriculture, next to no savings or
investment), (2) "preconditions for take-off" (agriculture becomes
mechanised, surpluses emerge, savings begin to grow to about 5% of GDP),
(3) "take-off" (manufacturing grows, political institutions develop,
savings rates increase to 10-to-15% of GDP); (4) "drive to maturity"
(savings steady at 10-20%, growth spreads to other sectors,
technological improvement, increasing diversity), (5) "age of mass
consumption" (output driven by consumption, beginning of shift to
tertiary sector). Rostow envisaged the length could take forty to sixty
years from take-off to maturity. The theory was criticized for its
"one-size-fits-all" approach – and in particular, the centrality of
savings, which was not always evident at the rates Rostow assumes and
for overlooking the importance international trade and competition.

 

  


top1.gif (924 bytes)Top

Major Works of Walt Whitman Rostow

  • "Investment and the Great Depression", 1938, Econ History Review
  • Essays on the British Economy of the Nineteenth Century, 1948.
  • "The Terms of Trade in Theory and Practice", 1950, Econ History Review
  • "The Historical Anlysis of Terms of Trade", 1951, Econ History Review
  • The Process of Economic Growth, 1952.
  • "Trends in the Allocation of Resources in Secular Growth", 1955, in Dupriez,
    editor, Economic Progress
  • An American Policy in Asia, with R.W. Hatch, 1955.
  • "The Take-Off into Self-Sustained Growth", 1956, EJ [ pdf ]
  • A Proposal: Key to an effective foreign policy, with M. Millikan, 1957.
  • "The Stages of Economic Growth", 1959, Econ History Review
  • The Stages of Economic Growth: A non-communist manifesto, 1960.
  • Politics and the Stages of Growth, 1971.
  • How it All Began: Origins of the modern economy, 1975.
  • The World Economy: History and prospect, 1978.
  • Why the Poor Get Richer and the Rich Slow Down: Essays in the Marshallian long period,
    1980.
  • "Development: the political economy of the Marshallian long period" 
    1984, in G.M. Meier and D. Seers, ed, Pioneers in Development [ ch.9 ,

    full ]

  • "Beware of historians bearing false analogies", 1988, Foreign Affairs
  • Theorists of Economic Growth from David Hume to the Present, 1990.

 


HET

 

top1.gif (924 bytes)Top

Resources on  W.W. Rostow

  • W.W.

    Rostow page at LBJ School, Univ of Texas

  • W.W.

    Rostow entry at Office of Historian, White House

  • Rostow

    obituary in NY Times, 2003

  • Rostow

    obituary in the Guadian

  • Rostow obituary at
    Economist
  • Rostow entry at American National Biography

  • Rostow page
    at Spartacus
  • Rostow interview
    at Wilson Center
  • Rostow

    interview at GWU

  • "Rostow’s Stages of Economic Growth through Escalation to Nuclear
    Destruction", by A.G. Frank , c.1967 [Pittsburgh

    pdf ]

  • America’s Rasputin: Walt Rostow and Vietnam War by David Milne,
    2008
  • "Review Milne’s Rostow" by J.G. Valentine at H-net
    online
  • "Criticism of Rostow’s Stage approach: The concepts of stage, system and
    type", by Yoichi Itgaki, 2007, Developing Economies. [ pdf ]
  • Summary of Five Stages of Growth [ pdf ]
  • Another summary at Lewis Historical [ online ]
  • Rostow entry
    at Britannica
  • Wikipedia

 

 

top1.gif (924 bytes)Top

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–


All rights reserved, Gon�alo L. Fonseca