Erik S. Reinert

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Erik Steenfeldt Reinert
Erik Reinert.JPG
Born (1949-02-15) 15 February 1949 (age 70)
InstitutionTallinn University of Technology
FieldDevelopment economics
Economic history
Alma materUniversity of St. Gallen (B.A.)
Harvard University (M.B.A.)
Cornell University (Ph.D)
InfluencesFriedrich List
Thorstein Veblen
Ragnar Nurkse
Joseph A. Schumpeter
Gunnar Myrdal
John Maynard Keynes
AwardsGunnar Myrdal Prize
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

Erik Steenfeldt Reinert (born 15 February 1949) is a Norwegian economist, with development economics, economic history and history of economic policy as his specialties.


Reinert was born in Oslo, attended the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland (where he studied economics), Harvard University (MBA), and Cornell University (Ph.D.). Already during his studies, he spent time in Latin America, working with a community development project in the Peruvian Andes, as well as in private industry. In 1972 he founded and later developed a small industrial firm, Matherson-Selig, later shortened to Matherson SpA, (color sampling to the paint and automotive industries) in Bergamo, Italy. Adding production plants also in Norway and Finland, the company had become the largest of its kind in Europe when Reinert sold it in 1991. Reinert then worked for the STEP group in Oslo (1991–1995) and later became Director of Research of the Norsk Investorforum, a think tank set up by large Norwegian corporations (1995–2000). He also held a part-time position at The Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM), a research institution established by the University of Oslo. In 2000, he became the Executive Chairman of The Other Canon Foundation, a small center and network for heterodox economics research. Since 2004, he is Professor of Technology Governance and Development Strategies at the Tallinn University of Technology in Tallinn, Estonia. He lectures in five languages.[1]


Reinert’s research interests and publications focus around the theory of uneven development and the history of economic thought and policy.[2][3] As a consultant, Reinert's emphasis is on industrial and economic policy, the preconditions and management of innovations, and the relations between financial and production capital.[3][2] He can lecture in five languages, and according to his profile on the UCL web pages his work has taken him to more than 65 different countries.

His best known book, How Rich Countries Got Rich ... and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor (2007), has been widely reviewed and discussed. While some reviews, like those in Prospect Magazine, The Economist, and others were dismissive [4][5][6] many – including those from the developing countries – were positive[7][8] and even those in publications generally opposed to Reinert’s framework, such as by Martin Wolf in the Financial Times,[9] have been critical yet called the book an important contribution to the debate. According to NORLA - a Norwegian organization concerned with of Norwegian books abroad, How Rich Countries Got Rich and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor has been translated into more than twenty languages.

The main message of the book is that neo-classical economics damage developing countries, mostly via adherence to the theory of comparative advantage of David Ricardo, an English economist of the XIX century. The theory posits the virtues of trade irrespective of the nature of the goods traded. Based on a long intellectual tradition - started by the Italian economists Giovanni Botero (1589) and Antonio Serra (1613), Reinert recalls that the country which trades increasing returns goods – e.g. high-end manufacture – has advantages over the country which trades diminishing returns goods – e.g. commodities. As Botero argued, the combination of economic diversity and adding value to raw materials are key elements that make nations rich. Since the Renaissance, argues Reinert, successful countries – including England and the United States - have first protected their nascent manufactures, then opened themselves to the world markets. Citing Friedrich List, a 19th-century German economist, Erik Reinert suggest that protectionism is thus important and that free trade is only mutual beneficial among countries of the same level of development. No country can achieve development without a sustained level of industrialization, and no poor country can achieve this in the strictures of free trade. For this reason, Reinert calls the Millennium development goals ‘palliative economics’, and presents historical records of conscient strategic behaviour of the colonial countries to keep their colonies de-industrialized. Reinert refers to former former World Bank Chief Economist Justin Yifu Lin who affirms that ‘Except for a few oil-exporting countries, no countries have ever gotten rich without industrialization first’.[10]

In 2008, Reinert received the annual Gunnar Myrdal Prize as best monograph in evolutionary political economy,[11] and in 2010 he was the only Norwegian economist invited to the Cambridge opening conference of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, financed by George Soros.

Based on his experience in the Andes and studies of economic anthropology at Cornell University, Reinert has also worked as an adjunct professor at Sámi University of Applied Sciences in Kauokeino Norway, and published on the economics of reindeer herding and climate change.[12][13]

An original strand of research originated at the Kress Library at Harvard Business School, where his wife Fernanda worked as a librarian, Erik Reinert and his wife have been investigating the history of economic thought from the point of view of the record of economics books - published before 1750[14] and 1850[15] respectively - which reached more than 10 editions (including translations) before 1850. Several former economic bestsellers are today virtually unknown.

His work on the role of the state in economic growth [16] has been republished in Chinese, Estonian, Russian, and Spanish.

A recurrent theme in the work of Erik Reinert is the cyclicality of economic thought and theories.[17][18]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Globalization, Economic Development and Inequality: An Alternative Perspective (2004), ed. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
  • The Origins of Economic Development. How Schools of Economic Thought have Addressed Development (2005), co-edited with KS Jomo. London: Zed / New Delhi: Tulika.
  • How Rich Countries Got Rich ... and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor (2007), London: Constable.
  • Techno-Economic Paradigms: Essays in Honour of Carlota Perez (2009), co-ed. London: Anthem.
  • Ragnar Nurkse (1907–2007): Classical Development Economics and its Relevance for Today (2009), co-ed. London: Anthem.
  • Ragnar Nurkse: Trade and Development (2009), co-ed. London: Anthem.
  • Erik S. Reinert, Jayati Ghosh, Rainer Kattel, Editors, Handbook of Alternative Theories of Economic Development, Edward Elgar Pub (May 25, 2018).
  • With Rainer Kattel: The Visionary Realism of German Economics: From the Thirty Years' War to the Cold War, Anthem Press; 1 edition (February 15, 2019).
  • Erik S. Reinert and Francesca Viano, Editors, Thorstein Veblen, Economics for an Age of Crises, Anthem Press, 2012.

Downloadable working papers[edit]


The solution of everything, lecture focused on the 1613 book A 'Short Treatise' on the Wealth and Poverty of Nations of Antonio Serra, Arendal, Norway, August 9, 2013.

Fairness over time in a social perspective, Talk by Erik S. Reinert at the Joint Research Centre as part of the STS “Contro Corrente” series of seminars, 31 August 2016.

A development strategy in a time of changing ideologies, An open lecture by Erik S. Reinert, Kyiv, October 4, 2016.

Innovation Boot Camp - Workshop "Capitalism and Innovation: The Long View", Conference for young scholars 'Innovation, institutions and governance', September 16–19, Tallin.

Presentation by Erik S. Reinert: "Resurrecting the economic ideas that produced the welfare state". Talk on the occasion of the celebration of the 70th birthday of Erik Reinert at University College London, Friday the 15 of February, 2019 , with interventions from Mariana Mazzucato, Carlota Perez, Wolfgang Drechsler and Robert Wade.


  1. ^ Other Canon | Documenting The Other Canon
  2. ^ a b Erik Reinert, Jayati Ghosh and Rainer Kattel, Editors, Handbook of Alternative Theories of Economic Development (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2016), pp. 738–86
  3. ^ a b Erik Reinert, How Rich Countries Got Rich and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor (Public Affairs, 2008)
  4. ^ "Essays: 'For richer and for poorer' by Paul Collier | Prospect Magazine June 2007 issue 135". Retrieved 2009-03-26.
  5. ^ "The new attack on free trade". Marginal Revolution. Retrieved 2009-03-26.
  6. ^ Last Updated: 12:36PM BST 19 Jun 2007 (2007-06-19). "An assault on the efficacy of free trade". Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-03-26.
  7. ^ - Review of How Rich Countries Got Rich and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor
  8. ^ Jayati Ghosh, Worldly philosopher, Frontline, INDIA'S NATIONAL MAGAZINE from the publishers of THE HINDU, Volume 24 - Issue 12, Jun. 16-29, 2007.
  9. ^ "/ Books / Non-Fiction – The growth of nations". 2007-07-21. Retrieved 2009-03-26.
  10. ^ Lin, Justin Yifu, New Structural Economics: A Framework for Rethinking Development and Policy, Washington DC, World Bank Publications, 2012, p. 350.
  11. ^ "EALAT WP leader Erik Reinert Wins Myrdal Prize". Arctic Portal. 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2009-03-26.
  12. ^ Erik S. Reinert, Iulie Aslaksen, Inger Marie G. Eira, Svein D. Mathiesen, Hugo Reinert and Ellen Inga Turi, "Adapting to Climate Change in Reindeer Herding: The Nation-State as Problem and Solution’ ", in Adger, N., I. Lorenzoni & K. O’Brien (eds), Adapting to Climate Change: Thresholds, Values and Governance, Cambridge University Press, 2009
  13. ^ Erik S. Reinert, "The Economics of Reindeer Herding: Saami Entrepreneurship between Cyclical Sustainability and the Powers of State and Oligopolies", British Food Journal, Vol. 108, No. 7, 2006, pp. 522-540
  14. ^ "33 Economic Bestsellers published before 1750", The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, published online on 01 February 2019,
  15. ^ Erik S. Reinert, Kenneth Carpenter, Fernanda A. Reinert, Sophus A. Reinert, 80 Economic Bestsellers before 1850: A Fresh Look at the History of Economic Thought, Working Papers in Technology Governance and Economic Dynamics no. 74, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, MAY 2017.
  16. ^ Erik Reiner, 1999, The role of the state in economic growth, Journal of Economic Studies, Volume 26, Issue 4/5, pp.268-326,
  17. ^ Erik Reinert, The Terrible Simplifers: Common Origins of Financial Crises and Persistent Poverty in Economic Theory and the new ‘1848 Moment’, DESA Working Paper No. 88 ST/ESA/2009/DWP/88, December 2009
  18. ^ Reinert, Erik S., ‘Full Circle: Economics from Scholasticism through Innovation and Back into Mathematical Scholasticism’, Journal of Economic Studies, 27 (2000), 364–76

External links[edit]