The development of a third world country

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The purpose of this essay is to discuss the statement ‘the developed countries were never underdeveloped, though they may have been undeveloped’ (Andre Gunder Frank), in light of Modernisation theory and its various critiques. Thus, the next paragraphs will give brief details, starting with the historical development of modernisation and divergence of Europe, and following with, modernisation theorists and dependency theorists arguments about the development paths the underdeveloped countries need to take for development and at last in relation to Andre Gunder Frank’s statement, above.

I will start with the historical, economic and political backgrounds of countries of the world, to show how the development states of countries of the world were, and to show how and when the divergence happened. ‘’Economically, before 1800, there were only minor differences in ‘GDP per capita’ between countries and regions in the world. The average growth of GDP per capita at that time was probably less than 0.1%!. Even in Europe, the average growth rate was only at 0.14%. In the 19th century growth started to take off in Western Europe and its off-shots’’. (Todaro M.P. and S.C. Smith (2009). The reason for Europe’s Economic diversion was, prior to the emergence of capitalism, the purpose of production was for consumption, where as in capitalism, from which modernity emerged, the purpose is capital accumulation, which in turn helps for expanding and increasing productivity. Thus, along with capitalism, divergence in GDP happened in Europe, especially in Britain. Society started to master nature, hence, Science and technology also began to emerge and expand. This increase in productivity, led the Europeans to look for more resources for consumption and places to market their products, which leads to colonisation. Modernization especially the advancement and expansion of science and technology underpinned the rise of capitalism in the North-Western world. With reference to developing countries, Martinussen views modernization as “a process whereby the traditional and backward Third World countries developed towards greater similarity with the Western, or rather, North-Western world”(1997:38). Politically, the establishment of states also facilitated the modernisation process. Because, nation states always strive to improve their living standard.

Thus, development theorists in 1950s and 1960’s, mainly W.W. Rostow (1960) argue that development of the underdeveloped countries is possible, only if they can replicate the steps taken by the developed countries, as they are now in one of the first two early development stages, which the rich countries had once been, long ago. According to Rostow, there are five stages by which a society can be categorized based on their economic dimension, namely: the traditional society, society that’s at a stage of precondition for takeoff, at take off stage, drive to maturity and the age of high mass consumption stage. Developing countries are either at the stage of traditional society or at the stage of precondition to take off. As to Modernisation theory, where Rostow belongs to, reason for underdevelopment of poor countries, is that they are traditional, and need to be modern with the help of advanced countries. And they justify colonisation as, since traditional society lack the capability to organize themselves, to make effective use of their resources and improve their lives, some force is needed to wake them up. And after decolonisation also, modernisation theorists argue, the only way out for underdeveloped countries from poverty, is to replicate the path taken by the Europeans, and to integrate themselves into the world system, as almost all developed countries except Britain did to transform from a traditional society to a modern one.

Contrary to the modernisation theory, dependency theory, argues that in order for poor countries to register economic, political and social development, the economic and social backgrounds of the poor countries should be investigated and analyzed, to learn what resulted in underdevelopment, as merely following the development path of the developed countries does not help much for their development. The theory further argues that, underdeveloped countries need to cut off or need to have a loose attachment from the ‘world system’ they are integrated now, as its structure is designed to enrich the developed countries and to impoverish the poor. Basically, the development and expansion of poor countries is conditioned by those of the riches, as there is inequality. The theory emphasises delinking, because it reasons out that the nature and degree of development of poor countries is directly related to their degree of dependence.

Frank as one of the major contributors for dependency theory, argued ‘The developed countries were never underdeveloped, though they may have been undeveloped’ (Andre Gunder Frank). According to Murad’s lecture, Undeveloped refers to early stage of being poor/traditional society, whereas underdeveloped refers an active force that causes this poverty. Underdevelopment happened by the historical process which also generated economic development and capitalism itself.

When I see Frank’s view in light of modernisation theory, his view contradicts with them, for the very fact that, there are other alternate ways for development, than the sole way suggested by Rostow. This is because; Rostow’s idea is unrealistic to apply in a real complex world. For instance, the current conditions of underdeveloped countries are completely different from what the developed countries had once been, while they were at the same stage the underdeveloped countries are now. For instance, The impact of colonisation, globalisation, the inequalities that are prevailing both between rich and poor countries of the world and within a country and the way countries are benefiting by integrating with the world economic system, are situations that make underdeveloped countries current situation completely different from what the developed countries had once been. Thus, I disagree with Rostow’s development path, which is a one fit all approach, and support Frank in this. It might have worked for some countries, but in most cases, it fails to meet the purpose. Rostow’s idea, would have been easier to apply, had the underdeveloped countries are in identical conditions, like the developed countries had while being at earlier stages of their development.

According to Frank and dependency theory in general, historical economic and political backgrounds of countries need to be assessed, to come up with a better solution for development. For example if we take the colonisation case, economically, almost all underdeveloped countries were colonies, and at a time of colonisation, resources of these countries were being exploited and the same thing is still happening in a different form to them. That is through foreign direct investment; foreign investors invest in poor countries and remit their profits back to their home countries. That is, they don’t reinvest their profits in poor countries. In addition, due to inequality the nature of production of underdeveloped and the developed are completely different, in that the poor countries are forced to produce more and more of primary goods, to get one same material from the richer ones. And if we take aid conditionality also, poor countries are forced to implement structural adjustments to get aid, regardless of how appropriate and advantageous the reform is. Politically, countries after independence mostly face challenge in nation building, which is an important factor for development, as the political systems set up and left by the colonizers were not designed for that purpose. So, sometimes the endowment of resource to such underdeveloped, politically predatory state is rather a curse, like the case of Nigeria.

Although I agree with Frank, there are limitations to his arguments. For instance, cutting off the link between the developed and developing countries, as Frank suggests, might not be possible as the world is already integrated, though the nature and degree of integration can be limited. For instance if we take the development of Botswana, in Africa, it was colonised by British, but due to peripheral nature of it, the colonisers didn’t stay long. And it possessed pre-colonial institution that encouraged broad based participation and placed constraints on political elites. Upon independence, the most important rural interests, chiefs and cattle owners were politically powerful and it was in their economic interest to design good policies for themselves and adopt the useful ones from the west. As we know, Botswana is known for its diamond resources, and the government has a strong negotiating power in the world market to get good prices. Thus, we can see that Botswana, didn’t cut the link to grow, rather designed the way it, integrates itself to the world market. The East Asians miracle is also, a case where lessons can be drawn from, other than cutting of the link with the developed nations.

Therefore, the primitive state of the developed countries is completely different from the underdeveloped countries state, to follow exactly the westerns model. It’s also impossible to delink with the world system to grow, rather underdeveloped countries can empower themselves by creating unity among themselves and devising ways, to better integrate into the world system. They also need to check their internal political, social and economic structures, as both the internal and external factors are equally important for their development.