Modernization and Development Theory

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Discussion of modernisation and dependency theorypdf_ico

This essay shall discuss two theories of development – modernisation and dependency theory (MT and DT). In this limited space, I shall narrow my analysis down to two of the staunchest representatives of each camp: Walt W. Rostow and André G. Frank. Also, because it is impossible to discuss their broad publications, I shall subject only the very core of their theories to scrutiny here. After (1) a quest for the shared assumptions of both theories, this account will discuss (2) Rostow’s idea of stages of economic growth (1959) and (3) Frank’s notion of development of underdevelopment (1966), both with their policy implications1. I will treat these mutually exclusive ideas as thesis and anti-thesis and shortly discuss (4) the direction into which a synthesis could go (and maybe has gone).

1. Shared Assumptions

Both theories seem to have some ‘faith in the efficacy of urban-based industrial growth’ (Potter et al. 2008, p. 942). Interestingly, even though Frank accuses MT of Eurocentrism (1966, p. 17), he never reflects whether industrialisation per se (with all the institutions that come with it) is a European concept in itself, a consideration I would have expected (Frank 1966, 1975). This shows that both scholars share the following paradigmatic assumption: Development necessitates industrialisation.

However, whereas MT is much more a theory of economic growth rather than about development (Binns 2002, p. 79), DT rejects the narrow informational basis of MT (GDP and trade indices) and focuses on a range of indicators (Ferraro 1996), much like nowadays Sen (1999) and the Human Development Index.

One could argue that the lack of dialogue and acceptance between the two schools is due to the cold war context within which they emerged. Rostow was a fierce anti-Marxist3 whereas Frank was exactly that, a Marxist. 2. The unilinear growth of MT

Rostow’s stages of economic growth (Rostow 1959, Binns...
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