Development underdevelopment thesis

Theories of Development Dependency Theory

His exile following the coup in Chile in marked another. His return to Germany and subsequent residence in England and The Netherlands began a transitional phase which shifted his interests away from Latin America towards the world economy.

Dependency theory

During the late s and early s he published five books on the problem of world accumulation and the world economic crisis. In the first book, Frank a dates the origins of the world system around , initially centred in Europe and increasingly global. This was more or less in line with the analysis of Immanuel Wallerstein and other world system theorists. In the fifth book, Frank reflects on the most recent world economic crisis of the time. Some authors credit him for being one of the first analysts to have predicted the downfall of the Soviet Union.

Despite his continu- ing prolific output, these books generated relatively little interest. Perhaps the debt crisis of the s, the end of the Third World liberation struggles, the waning of the student movements and the increasing malaise in the socialist countries dimin- ished their potential readership. Furthermore, other concerns impinged on the con- sciousness of people such as environmental and gender issues about which Frank had little to say.

In a way, the Frank I period came to an end with a collection of his essays written between and Frank Latin America had by then faded away and he no longer uncondi- tionally supported the Cuban revolution nor proclaimed the socialist revolution as the way to escape from underdevelopment. I think that Frank felt most at home in the position of critical outsider although, despite firing off right, left and centre, he wished to retain the friendship of those who had been close to him.

Table of contents

Whether he succeeded in this is difficult to say. It is likely that some friendships were no longer close as before. His Frank II phase starts with a couple of articles published in and culmi- nates with his ReOrient book in Kay Europe after was a hegemonic transfer from East to West within the same world system rather than the formation of a new world system. Contrary to the views of his contemporaries Amin and Wallerstein, as well as those of his prede- cessors Adam Smith and Karl Marx in the past, there was no qualitative break around Frank concluded his article by insisting on the systemic continuity and by stressing the unity in diversity — a phrase that he often repeated throughout his work and became the slogan which perhaps best encapsu- lates his mission and, for better or worse, his legacy.

Wallerstein replied that there was no single historical world system before as there was no integrated production system and that trade alone does not make a system. Furthermore, he highlights his different conceptualisation of the world system. I use the plural; he does not. He uses the singular because, for him, there is and has been only one world system through all of historical time and space.

List of figures

Frank complained that few researchers were writing world history or international history as he understood it and few therefore were able to appreci- ate the centrality of Asia. He thus made it his mission to begin to fill this gap as well as to encourage other researchers to do so. While his writings during the Frank I period dealt with an enormous variety of topics his writings during the Frank II period are more focused on his new-found mission.

His main themes for analysis continued to be the processes of capital accumulation, the core-periphery structures, the changes in hegemony and the political economic cycles and to trace them as far back in history as possible. Hence the prime cause of the industrial revolution and the rise of the West do not lie in its own internal dynamics but are explained by the internal changes in another part of the world system, e. His five thousand year conception seems to drain away the enquiry into change and systemic transformation.

The only transformation seems to be the shift from one centre to another, from the East to the West which according to Frank happened only by According to Frank about two-thirds of the world population were living in Asia in and they accounted for an estimated four-fifths of world production Frank Whether to refer to the period before the sixteenth century as constituting a world system is very questionable given the limited trade and other economic relations between the East and the West. Furthermore, social, cultural and political relations between those two regions of the world were even more marginal.

Hence it does not make much sense to conceptualise this as a world system McNeill Such an all-embracing and eternal view of the world system offers little hope for anti-systemic movements and conveys a probably unintended conserva- tive message. Thus, in his book ReOrient he revised his earlier core-periphery and world accumulation analysis.

He also abandoned capitalism as a central expla- natory category. This had far-reaching implications which Frank did not fully analyse. For example, it means that contrary to his famous thesis on the develop- ment of underdevelopment, it is no longer capitalism which generates and repro- duces underdevelopment in the periphery but the changing nature of the world system. Furthermore, socialism is no longer a real alternative for overcoming underdevelopment.

Frank II mentioned that alternatives are possible but these remain largely unspecified and vague although he does stress that world system history is quite clear about what will not work. Contrary to his earlier view, Frank a: 58 now argues that delinking does not lead to development and especially in this era of globalisation and the increas- ing interdependence of the world economy is impossible to achieve.

Retrospec- tively Frank now admits that he and the dependency theorists never fully answered the question of how a non-dependent and autonomous development could be achieved and whether it would lead to genuine development. In his view, dependency theory remained trapped within a nation-state conception of development.

From being one of the major polemicists in the debates on modes of production, he now rejects the concept of mode of production altogether for understanding the trans- formations of economies and societies. Kay the transformation processes of a country or a region, it is necessary to use a world system perspective Frank It is no exaggeration to say that he was a world system theorist avant la lettre and its key founder. The relentless extraction of an economic surplus from the periphery and its appropriation by the centre reproduces the unequal nature of the world system.

It will continue to do so due to his pioneering contribution to international political economy and world system theory. Frank seemed to argue that there is, there can be and there will be unity in diversity. Frank defended himself against the accusation that his work was too concerned about unity by replying that he also tried to explain how this same unity generated diversity within it.


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To what extent Frank imposes a unity on our understanding of the diverse historical transformations of the inter- national political economy which does not exist is a question which will con- tinue to be debated. But he excelled in his mission of providing the big picture, asking the unim- aginable questions and exploring hitherto inconceivable interrelationships. In this task he was willing to take risks and expose himself to an avalanche of criticisms as well as ridicule not only from the orthodox academic establishment but also from those supporting his ideals for a more just world and even from his friends.

However, Frank opened new avenues for research and provided food for debates, often fierce, often ideologically inspired, sometimes leading to blind alleys but always questioning, reflecting and challenging conventional wisdom.

Andre Gunder Frank: The Underdevelopment of Development

This is his most enduring legacy. Notes I am grateful to Nicola Phillips for inviting me to write this feature article for the journal as well as to Colin Hay for his comments. I remain indebted to Diana Kay for her expert editing. They are in no way responsible for any remaining shortcomings of the article. Available from: www. The table of contents can be accessed at www. I am borrowing here a phrase from Jan Nederveen Pieterse Frank wrote the article in and submitted it to several journals that all refused to publish it.

This lengthy article was published in as a book with the same title by Pluto Press in London. Over 50 reviews of the book were already published by Frank refers here to his manuscript On Capitalist Underdevelopment Frank , which he wrote in but was only published in Decades after Frank wrote this acknowledgement Cardoso became president of Brazil — After some initial struggles within LASA, it became much more receptive to the ideas of radical Latin American thinkers.

I have discussed these various strands of the dependency school in Kay Frank b: disliked any labelling or pigeonholing of himself, especially by others. On this point see also Warren and —2. I have dealt elsewhere with the debates and critiques of dependency theory, see chapters 6 and 7 in Kay For a review by Frank of the book, see Frank a. Seligson and John T.


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There is much reason why this topic has garnered a large amount of attention. The income gap between rich and poor countries has increased dramatically in the past several decades. Thus, the poor in developing countries find themselves economically disempowered by two phenomena simultaneously. Why is this suddenly a pressing concern, if many years of untamed discrepancies have led to the current state of affairs?

Domestic deprivation and chronic inequality are dangerous determinants of civil strife and international disputes. Diamond asserts that longer days were more favorable to genetic variation of vegetation. Four of these areas—Western Europe, northeast Asia coastal China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea , and the eastern and western seaboards of the United States and Canada—are the core economic zones of the modern world. First, compared to temperate regions, tropical climates are characterized by higher disease burdens and thwarted agricultural productivity.

Coastal regions or regions linked to the coast by sufficient transportation and communication infrastructure , relative to hinterlands, are strongly favored in development because ocean-navigable waterways and ports are essential for healthy, lucrative international trade relations.

Module 4: Historical Perspectives on Development and Under-development

Paul Collier also throws his viewpoint on geography into the mix in his book The Bottom Billion. So nice neighborhoods, in the sense of fast growth, are pretty helpful to everyone. Globally, resource-scarce landlocked countries seem to make a special effort to piggyback on the growth of their neighbors—for the landlocked spillover is not 0.

He proposes improving economic reciprocity between neighboring countries, investing in transport infrastructure and coastal access, and encouraging remittances. Colonialism often resulted in severe demographic crises. Between and , the indigenous population was utterly decimated—declining from approximately million to 3.

I countered this universally accepted supply side theory with the essentially Keynesian demand side argument that the real economic obstacle was insufficient market demand for productive national investment. The same kind of Keynesian and structuralist argument also underlay the policies of Brazilian and other nationalists, like Celso Furtado.

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I argued that his and others policies of structural reform were insufficient to expand the internal market and generate development. None of us had yet thought of what would become our dependence theory. Of course, neither could we then know how Latin American and our political developments would later entangle our personal, intellectual and political paths.