The Hiding Hand: A Rejoinder to Flyvbjerg on Hirschman

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In a recent article in World Development, Flyvbjerg confronted Hirschman's principle of the “Hiding Hand” and “providential” or “beneficial ignorance” (World Development Vol 84, pp 176–189). This states that development projects typically incur major cost overruns and other implementation problems, which put in question the decision to launch them in the first place. Indeed, had these difficulties been known in advance, the projects might never have been tried. Flyvbjerg challenges the empirical validity of this principle and the sloppiness of Hirschman's own argument. This rejoinder, while accepting that Hirschman presents his argument less than well, argues that Flyvbjerg is too quick to dismiss it, and that by taking account of Hirschman's scholarship more broadly, much of his approach remains valuable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-368
Number of pages3
JournalWorld Development
Early online date13 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Hirschman
  • strategy of economic development
  • the Hiding Hand

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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