In this essay I have chosen to examine the modernisation and dependency theories of development. These two theories come from completely different ends of the political and economic spectrum. The modernisation theory is basically a functionalist or capitalist theory, supported by Margaret Thatcher amongst others, whilst the dependency theory leans more towards a Marxist or communist standpoint. In this essay I will identify areas in which the theories are similar, if any, and those where they disagree.
I will find evidence to show where these theories have been applied in less developed countries. Following the Second World War the world split into communist and capitalist nations. The capitalist nations were known as the ‘First World’, the communist nations became known as the ‘Second World’, and the countries that did not side with either ideology became known as the ‘Third World’. The capitalist world, broadly speaking lies in the Northern Hemisphere, plus Australia and New Zealand, whereas ‘Third World’ countries tend to be along the Equator or in the Southern Hemisphere.
These ‘Third World’ countries have tended to be countries that were created by the great colonial powers of the capitalist world including Great Britain, the USA, France, Spain and Portugal. Colonialism exploited and changed the nature and economy of these countries leading to underdevelopment. The term the ‘Third World’ is a pejorative label, so for the purpose of this essay I will refer to ‘Third World’ countries as ‘less developed’ or ‘developing’ countries. Walt Whitman Rostow an American Economic Historian produced a booklet in the 1960s entitled “Stages of Economic Development”.
Rostow’s modernisation theory suggested that countries needed to pass through five stages of economic development: 1, Traditional Society – Traditional methods are used in the main form of production – agriculture, and the economy is mainly subsistence. Any surplus goods produced tend to be bartered in exchange for other goods. 2, Transitional Stage – Traditional methods are abandoned and specialisation is encouraged to produce a greater surplus of goods to trade with. The production of ‘cash crops’ is encouraged.
The country’s infrastructure is improved to ease the transport of goods for trade. Entrepreneurs emerge as incomes and investments grow. Urbanisation takes place. 3, Take Off – Workers switch from agriculture to industry and industrialisation increases. Along with the economic changes there are new political and social institutions along the lines of those in the developed countries. Investment leads to increasing incomes, which in turn generates finance for further investment. The growth is self-sustaining. 4, Drive to Maturity – New areas of production are used in the economy i.
e. technology, and a greater diversity of goods are produced making the country less dependent on imports. 5, High Mass Consumption – The developing country is now developed and consumes high quantities of goods similar to the Northern countries which it seeks to emulate. Rostow believed that this development path represented a ‘natural’ progression from underdevelopment to full technological and democratic advancement. His theory is based on the assumption that traditionalism is wrong and that in order to develop, all the traditional methods previously used must be abandoned.
In fact the lack of development in these countries is commonly blamed on the existence of traditional ideology, religion and culture. For example Islamic countries such as the Taliban controlled Afghanistan have gone as far as banning many of the things that the developed world takes for granted, such as radios, televisions, education for women and even employment for women. Countries that are labelled as being ‘traditional’ are in effect deprived of a past or history prior to colonialism or development.
“To classify these countries as ‘traditional societies’ implies either that the underdeveloped countries have no history or that it is unimportant. ” (Griffin, 1969, Development versus Dependency theory, 28th April 2002, www. revision-notes. co. uk) In fact prior to exploitation through slavery, followed by colonialism, many of these countries had rich cultures and civilisations. Prior to the advent of the slave trade the people of the African continent had long traded goods with neighbouring societies as far up the continent as Morocco.
These trade routes were then completely destroyed by the slave traders who took away all the able bodied men, women and children that they could find. The African continent is still struggling to recover from the harm done over two hundred years ago. Commonly, developed countries are now pushing ‘free-trade’ as the saviour of less developed countries. This is an application of Rostow’s modernisation theory. Trade embargoes are supposed to be being lifted in order to facilitate improved trade for less developed countries.
However, the West and in particular the USA and the EU continues to subsidise its own farmers to overproduce and protect their own prices. This effect keeps the developing world in poverty because their crops cannot compete with the prices of the subsidised crops. In an article in The New Statesmen it was stated that: “The World Bank and International Monetary Fund, recently calculated that if world prices were not depressed by subsides, millions of poor cotton producers could be lifted out of poverty”.
(Barbara Gunnell, The New Statesman, 20th May 2002) If this change was made in the developing countries of the world it would mean that for example in the West African state of Burkina Faso, the number of people who live in poverty would be reduced by half within six years (Source: The New Statesman, 20th May 2002). Cynics believe that ‘free-trade’ is not in the best interests of poor countries, but that the conditions of loans from the IMF and the World Bank generally force them to participate.
“The poorest countries have been rightly cynical of the benefits to them of a free trade in agriculture, recognising that the rules of international trade are written by the rich for the benefit of the rich. ” (Barbara Gunnell, The New Statesman, 20th May 2002) In contrast to Rostow’s approach Gunther Frank whose work was developed from Marxism (although it is not a Marxist account) put forward the ‘dependency theory’ suggesting that underdevelopment is not a consequence of traditionalism. Instead he claims that underdevelopment is directly caused by colonialist exploitation.