Dependency Theory


Essay #1


POLS 2210 6.0 B


Tutorial Period: Thursdays, 12:30 – 1:30pm



Similar to Marxism, Dependency Theory was an activist project that did not just analyze. However, in becoming political actors and advisors, there was an irony that the best way for a country to be more like the developed city was to actually join the ranks of exploiting countries. I think the strategies of Dependency Theory jump from the approach of developing into a core country. This would result in experimenting with different kinds of cooperative trade groups, or like the socialists would, that is develop in an different world market, to simply making the imperialist system look favourable by talking about fantasies of fair north-south relations, mainly through the goodwill of or pressure on the imperialist powers (develop through reforming imperialism). The strategies change depending on the size and economic strength of the particular country. It was unfortunate that the latter strategy that was left for the majority of most third world countries.


Dependency Theory is in large part a theory of development in the third world. One of its strengths is its recognition that from the beginning, capitalism developed as a multinational system, which industrialization in England, amongst other things was linked and in fact part of the same phenomenon.[1] It recognized that development had different features in the core than in the periphery, where the disadvantages of the relationship were evident in both the economic and political realms. Dependency Theory therefore spends its time on the question, "how can we have a development in the periphery that more resembles the core?"


By the Nineteenth Century, the central idea of the development theory of progress as it roots in Western capitalist control would be cast in stone. In Africa, the notion of development has only a relatively short history, with development programs only being set up late this century.[2] The suggestions of the concept are still being realized however. It is only since the 1980s that Western thought has really given a critical eye over exactly what development has achieved and started to look at the other choices available. This reassessment has been encouraged by the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, which damaged faith in the power of the Capitalist model, since instead of producing a single model of capitalist democracy, it created a new world confusion. This acted as an example of how the world\'s economic system is not evolving as many people once thought it would - that is, slowly incorporating all underdeveloped countries into the capitalist mode of production that someone had suggested would be a big help to everyone. Many criticisms have now been made on the applicability of development ideology in the Third World context.[3] Where colonialism left off, development took over. The negative attitudes engendered by the concept of \'development\'; suggestions arose that it was the \'sociology of the non-existent\'; while others suggest that it is the development process itself which is most damaging, calling it \'a universalizing tool of westernization\'.


While industrialization for a small country may be difficult in certain conditions, development from redistribution of wealth and labor, such as health care and education, was certainly possible. However, this would require a good deal more limitation of the "rights" of the upper class than the Dependency Theory supporters were willing to accept. This kind of development is undervalued in the third world and doomed by its reliance on the national bourgeoisie.[4]


My feeling in reading about the Dependency Theory was not that they characterize development in the third world as not "real" development. It was rather that they analyze that development to point out that it builds a society that is structured differently from that at the core and that this building is a process that will continue, never leading to a society like that in the core. In that sense they point out to those who would call third world countries "developing" countries that it was not development as advertised, but the development of underdevelopment.


On this issue, up to the 80’s, Dependency Theory agreed with Marxism. During the 60\'s and 70\'s we pointed several times over to the systemic inequalities in the north-south trade, to the continuing of the economic relations of colonialism in the newly independent countries.[5]