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Industrialization, Poverty and Paradigmatic Thinking in the English Speaking Caribbean

Davin Ramphall Department of Geography and Anthropology Louisiana State University Baton Rouge, LA 70803

Prepared for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Caribbean Studies Association, Havana, Cuba, May 21-24, 1991

1. Introduction

There js currently a crisis in development thinking in the English speaking Caribbean (and for that matter, in the entire Caribbean area). The timeworn, top-down, macro models of industrialization, be they of the import substitution mode or, more recently, of the export promotion variety, have failed to address seriously the concerns of the region's poor, Indeed, by any measure of poverty, many countries of the English speaking Caribbean are worse off today than they were ten to fifteen years ago. The problem of endemic poverty, in turn, has led to periodic crises of legitimation for the states of the region. In this paper I look briefly at industrialization patterns in the English speaking Caribbean over the past three decades and suggest some reasons why they have failed to ameliorate significantly the poverty problem in the region. The following section elaborates on a conceptual framework which I find useful for theorizing and evaluating the industrial patterns--the framework of dependent capitalism. This is followed in section three by an overview and assessment of the industrialization strategies themselves. Given the failure of past attempts at industrialization, does there exist a viable alternative strategy of development for the poor? In sections four and five I shall argue that a viable alternative lies in community empowerment at the grassroots level.

2. Industrialization Within Dependent Capitalism: A Conceptual Framework 2.1. The Meaning of Dependent Capitalism Virtually all radical political economy analyses of underdevelopment in the less developed countries (LDCs) start off with the following basic theoretical proposi t ion: ....p eripheral countries as they are integrated

into the world-wide capitalist economy are (for the most part) locked into a state of limited economic development.(Meeropol, 1972: 77) This development is, furthermore, dependent in nature. Dos Santos ( 1970) , Fralik (1967) and others of what has come to be known as the 'dependency school' view dependence as a situation in which the economies of one group of countries are conditioned by the development and expansion of others. Furthermore, this conditio~linghas negative effects on the immediate development of the dominated countries. Within the radical political economy paradigm of underdevelopment itself dependency theory has come under attack by MarxisL theories of underdevelopment (Laclau, 1971; Rey, 1975). The former emphasises foreign domination (the international circuit) as the primary mechanism for surplus extraction from the LDCs, while the latter places emphasis on the role of internal class structures within the LDCs themselves (the domestic circuit). I do not propose to get into that debate here. Clearly, a more complete view of depetldetlt capitalism must incorporate analyses of both the international a i td domestic circuits of surplus extraction.

Sutcliffe (cited in Palma, 1978: 885) identifies three distinct phases in the evolution of dependent capitalism (and , by corollary, three distinct sets of mechanisms for surplus extraction) in the LDCs. The first involved the plunder of wealth and slaves and exports of manufactured goods to the periphery. The second was characterized by the export of capital, the growth of monopoly and the competition for raw materials. The third has come to involve "a more complex, post-colonial dependency of the peripheral countries in which foreign capital (international corporations), profit repatriation, adverse changes in the terms of trade (unequal exchange) all play a role in confining, distorti~ig or halting economic development and...
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