International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

A Brief Overview of the Theory of Unequal Exchange and its Critiques
Ayşe Özden Birkan

The idea that trade may benefit parties unevenly has been a recurrent theme in international trade theory. One of the most influential formulations of the idea is the theory of unequal exchange developed by Arghiri Emmanuel in his 1969 book L’échange inégal: Essais sur les antagonismes dans les rapports économiques internationaux. Since its initial exposition, the theory of unequal exchange has stirred a lot of criticism and discussion. This study aims to provide an overview of the evolution of the idea of unequal exchange, Emmanuel’s presentation of it and its subsequent critiques. A close look at the discussions around unequal exchange reveals that despite its limitations as a general theory of uneven development or a theory of international prices, the theoretical and empirical discussions it has stimulated are still relevant as evidenced by the recent reincarnation of the concept in relation to ecological economics.

Full Text: PDF