Modernization Theory Vs Dependency Theory

Topics: Economics

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While the explanations of underdevelopment differed, experts such as Brooks and Hallward viewed the natural disaster in Haiti to be so destructive mainly due to its poverty. By diminishing the level of poverty in countries such as Haiti, it is possible to make them less vulnerable to many of the problems they face.

To reduce poverty it is important for societies to accept development strategies. What exactly is development and how can it be achieved?

Development is a process in which we attempt to bridge the gap between developed and underdeveloped nations by means of an imitative process through which less developed countries gradually assume the quality of industrialized nations (Canel). It occurs from our ability to imagine, theorize, conceptualize, experiment, invent, articulate, organize, manage, solve problems, and do a hundred other things with our minds and hands that contribute to the progress of the individual and of human-kind (Harrison 228).

This process of development can be achieved through either the Modernization Theory, a view from the Global North, or the Dependency Theory, a view from the Global South. These two approaches are diverse from each other; however there are notable similarities between them too. Both the theories lack in certain places thus fail to escape criticism, however the Dependency Theory looks at development in a broader aspect. To begin with, one of the main similarities between the theories is that they both give much attention to the gap existing between the developed and underdeveloped world.

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Similarities Between Modernization Theory And Dependency Theory

The Dependency and Modernization Theory both agree that the Western countries are more advanced in all social and economic areas due to which they are considered world leaders. According to Harrison the gap between the North and South is increased due to religion as it influences the ethical system in place, which in effect, becomes a limitation for development. Moreover, both approaches consider the relation of dependency to further enhance the gap between the developed and developing world. Since the third world has to depend on the West, that is seen to limit its growth and enlarge the gap between them.

Furthermore, both theories see capitalism as a means for economic growth. The Modernization Theory looks at capitalism as a creative force and believes that it is capable of driving the third world towards a higher standard of living just as it did for the developed countries. The Dependency Theory, while in acceptance of capitalism, also looks at it with suspicion. It believes the capitalist system should be implemented but with strong guidance and even control from the central government of the underdeveloped country as this would help bring it out of its dependent state.

At the same time, the Modernization and Dependency Theory both accept the Western notion of development. Theorists of both approaches believe that the developed world implemented the right method and that it should be used by the developing countries as well to achieve development. Both theories can in a way be considered ethnocentric because they basically ignore all other alternative methods of development and instead suggest the West has the right set of values and a good society which should be copied by the third world too.

In spite of all these similarities, the differences between these two theories are much more substantial. The two approaches have completely opposite views on how to achieve development and especially on the relationship between the developed and underdeveloped world. These numerous differences are in fact due to the origin of the Dependence Theory as this approach was developed in response to the Modernization Theory. In the analysis of the differences between the Dependency and Modernization Theory, it is important to primarily point out the disagreement between both theories on the causes of underdevelopment.

The Modernization Theory believes that underdevelopment is a product of the traditions and culture of countries. The argument made by David Brooks for the situation in Haiti is one example which portrays the views of this theory. He considers the religion and culture as constraints for Haiti to come out of its poverty. In his article he states that the voodoo religion followed by the Haitians spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. Theorists such as Lipset and Harrison claim development can only be achieved if people change their views from traditional to modern.

A traditional view, according to them, is one in which life is integrated in the family, where much importance is given to status and where people themselves limit growth. A modern view, on the other hand, is one where the individual comes first and growth is encouraged in all ways. In contrast, the Dependency Theory blames the developed world for the underdevelopment of the poor countries. In other words, this approach believes that the economic dependency which exists between the North and South is the cause of underdevelopment.

Supporters of this theory believe that the relationship between the developed and underdeveloped world is based on exploitation, inequality and power. It is then safe to say that the Dependency Theory distrusts the West and looks at it not as a helper but exploiter. There are many examples in history which verify this claim to be true. To increase the standard of living of their own people, developed countries exploit the underdeveloped societies and benefit from their resources. Furthermore, the Modernization Theory gives significance to internal factors whereas the Dependency Theory gives more importance to external factors.

According to the Modernization Theory, internal factors such as institutions and the social structure affect development in many ways. Harrison explains that internal factors such as corruption and nepotism affect development by weakening the self-discipline necessary to keep a society working well. Criminal activities, such as stealing, are encouraged due to this and as a result prevent economic growth. The Dependency Theory, on the other hand believes that external factors have a greater hand in development.

International trade is one such factor which is talked about a lot in this theory. Multinational and other foreign companies open factories and assembly lines in poor countries in order to exploit the resources and cheap labour. All profits are taken back to the home base which in effect deprives the host country of its own resources and leaves it even more underdeveloped. Another difference between the two concepts is that, unlike the Dependency Theory, the Modernization Theory gives little importance to the history of a nation.

Theorists in favour of the Modernization Theory believe that irrespective of its history the underdeveloped country must imitate the ways of the developed world if it wishes to advance. This perspective ignores how wars and colonial rule have affected countries and assumes that for every society the Western notion of development will be the appropriate method. In stark contrast, the Dependency Theory believes history plays a major role in development. In his article, Hallward talks about how Haiti has a history which is compounded by decades of systematic postcolonial oppression.

It is necessary to emphasize on history as it defines the developmental factors of a country such as the economic, political and social factors. Moreover, when history is taken into consideration better comparisons can be made between nations and the reasons for one country’s underdevelopment are made clearer. Development is a lengthy process in which many factors need to be considered. While values and culture are important in the process of development they are not the only factors.

The Modernization Theory looks at development in a short sighted manner and supporters of this approach claim that only the Western traditions and culture allow for development. This theory fails to acknowledge the fact that every nation is different and for some their own traditions and culture may be the path for growth, while the western beliefs may only lead to greater poverty. The Dependency Theory, however, looks at development in a broader manner and puts across a more realistic approach for countries to progress.

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Modernization Theory Vs Dependency Theory. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from

Modernization Theory Vs Dependency Theory
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