International Development: Theories of Modernization, Dependency, Globalization

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Minhchau Truong
ID 125
Prof. Kevin Maclean
Midterm Exam
Black, Maggie. The No-Nonsense Guide to International Development. (London: New Internationalist Publications Ltd, 2007).
Naim, Moises. Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy. (New York: Anchor Books, 2005).
Reding, Nick. Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town. (New York: Bloomsbury, 2009).
Thurow, Roger and Scott Kilman. Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty. (New York: Perseus Books, 2009).

Modernization Theory was used to justify the process of decolonization and intervention by the United States, which had the ulterior motive of gaining access to new markets and thus boosting the national economy. The U.S. separated this theory from Cold War ideologies with the distinguishing feature that it emphasized GNP and technical measures. The theory is ethnocentric and is posited in the belief that there is a ceaseless struggle against scarcity and that underdeveloped nations must overcome this natural state. The role and ability of the developed state was framed by the teleological doctrine that began with preconditions to “take-off”, which was recognition that economic progress was necessary to move from “tradition” to “modernity” to the final “take-off”, to the “drive to maturity” (which was expected to be completed in 1-2 generations), to the “age of high-mass consumption” (similar to the historical patterns of the U.S.). The strengths of Modernization theory included its organized capitalism, integration into the world economy, and outlook of economic expansion. These changes were to be achieved through institutions and a shift from earlier colonial hierarchy and integration into the United Nations family (a de jure equality). However, the weaknesses overpower benefits. The theory naturalizes “underdevelopment” as something that can be changed easily, and discounts implicit historical, geographical, sociological circumstances or specific constraints. Furthermore, it disregards underdeveloped countries by trivializing conditions by labeling it as the “global norm”. Economics is foremost on the agenda, rather than politics, because capital accumulation for developed states- not actual welfare of the concerned state- is the main objective. The theory displaces the more correct principle of the right to self-definition. The linear growth implied by the theory can only be achieved by mass consumption, competition, individualism. Essentially, modernization theory is an ahistorical narrative imposed by ethnocentric developed states that could not possibly relate to their underdeveloped states. Dependency Theory sees the historical relations of inequality, the unequal relationships developed between industrialized countries versus underdeveloped. Theoretically, the problem is explained as: economic growth in advanced industrialized countries did not lead to a growth in poorer countries. Dependency theory acknowledges that modernization theory directly contradicted neo-classical economic theory- the Pareto optimal, that economic growth was beneficial to all even if benefits not equally shared, this was not evident in the relationship between industrialized nations and unindustrialized nations. The strengths of dependency theory included that is accounted for real history as opposed to modernization theory, which was a philosophy of history. It saw states as a global structure, and saw inequalities as a problem rather than a way to promote competition and equalizations. There were realistic expectations, unacknowledged that imposition of “development” was actually an act of exclusion. What was preferred was a more natural, predestined process of inclusion. Economically, dependency accurately determined the outcomes of modernization: poor countries exported primary commodities to rich countries, which the rich...
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