Faith & Economics
NUMBER 78, Fall 2021
Liberation Theology and Development Economics: Unlikely Allies?
Annette Davis and Christina McRorie
Abstract: This article proposes that developments in the fields of liberation theology and development economics have made this the right time for a dialogue between the two fields, despite their historic estrangement. Our argument unfolds in three parts. The first introduces the concerns of liberation theology, emphasizing its “see, judge, act” methodology of social analysis and its historical critique of development as a “top-down” approach to improving the lives of the poor. The second part charts recent changes within development economics, noting an increasingly holistic understanding of both poverty and human development, as well a growing emphasis on empowering local agents. The final part argues that points of compatibility now exist between the aims and methods of the two disciplines, but also notes ongoing areas of disagreement and difference. The article concludes by outlining subjects on which critical conversation between the two fields may prove mutually enriching. Keywords: liberation theology, development economics, social analysis, institutions, poverty.
JEL codes: O2, B2, Y8