Skip to main content

Requiem or New Agenda for Third World Studies?

  • Tony Smith (a1)

Thanks to the vigor of the dependency school's attack on the established “developmentalist” framework for studying change in the Third World, debates going on today in development studies are perhaps the most interesting and important in the field of comparative politics. The debates are interesting because, both methodologically and substantively, a wide range of new issues has been raised in a field that by around 1970 had become relatively moribund. They are important because, in the Third World especially, the mainstream developmentalist models earlier formulated in the United States—such as those sponsored by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC)—have been angrily discarded by many in favor of politically explosive explanations of underdevelopment that lay the manifold problems of these areas squarely at the feet of Western imperialism (and, in the case of the Latin Americanists heading this school, at the doorstep of Washington in particular). Thus, there are acutely perceived moral and political dimensions to this clash of paradigms for the study of Third World development, beyond the intellectual, or academic, interest that such controversy is sure to excite.

Hide All

1 Huntington, Samuel P. and Dominguez, Jorge I., “Political Development,” in Greenstein, Fred I. and Polsby, Nelson W., eds., Handbook of Political Science, Vol. 3: Macropolitical Theory (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1975), 90.

2 Almond, Gabriel, “Comparative Politics and Political Development: A Historical Perspective,” Joint Seminar on Political Development, Harvard - Massachusetts Institute of Technology, October 26, 1983, p. 7.

3 Hirschman, , Essays in Trespassing: Economics to Politics and Beyond (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 1.

4 Ibid., 59.

5 Hirschman, , “The Search for Paradigms as a Hindrance to Understanding,” World Politics 22 (April 1970), 329.

6 Almond (fn. 2), 2.

7 Wiarda, “Toward a Non-Ethnocentric Theory of Development: Alternative Conceptions from the Third World,” paper presented at the meeting of the American Political Science Association, September 1981, p. 25. For a more accessible version of this position, see Wiarda, , “The Ethnocentrism of the Social Sciences: Implications for Research and Policy,” The Review of Politics 42 (April 1981). For an earlier statement of this view by a Weberian, see Bendix, Reinhard, Embattled Reason: Essays on Social Knowledge (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970), esp. 268 ff., and Nation Building and Citizenship: Studies of Our Changing Social Order (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964), chap. 8.

8 For example, in the 1964 Preface to The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1958), Lerner writes: “The ‘Western model’ is only historically Western; sociologically it is global … the same basic model reappears in virtually all modernizing societies of all continents of the world, regardless of variations of race, color or creed” (pp. viii-ix). Two other well-known examples from an abundant literature are Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1960); and Black, , The Dynamics of Modernization: A Study in Comparative History (New York: Harper & Row, 1966).

9 Almond, Gabriel A. and Coleman, James S., eds., The Politics of the Developing Areas (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960), 535.

10 Eckstein, , “A Perspective on Comparative Politics, Past and Present,” in Eckstein, Harry and Apter, David, eds., Comparative Politics: A Reader (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1963).

11 Shils, , “On the Comparative Study of New States,” in Geertz, Clifford, ed., Old Societies and New States: The Quest for Modernity in Asia and Africa (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1963), 18.

12 Almond and Coleman (fn. 9), 3, 4.

13 Grendzier, , Managing Political Change: Social Scientists and the Third World (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985). For a powerful early attack along these lines, see Chomsky, Noam, American Power and the New Mandarins (New York: Pantheon Books, 1969).

14 Hirschman (fn. 3), 24

15 The discussion here draws on my contribution on dependency thinking in Wiarda, Howard, ed., New Directions in Comparative Politics (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, forthcoming 1985).

16 For the debates within the dependency camp, see, among others, Henrique Cardoso, Fernando, “The Consumption of Dependency Theory in the United States,” Latin American Research Review 12 (No. 3, 1977); Fagen, Richard R., “Studying Latin American Politics: Some Implications of a Dependencia Approach,” Latin American Research Review 12 (No. 3, 1977); and Chilcote, Ronald H., ed., Dependency and Marxism: Toward a Resolution of the Debate (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1981). The most influential writer on world system analysis in the United States is Immanuel Wallerstein; see his The Modem World System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century (New York: Academic Press, 1974), and The Modem World System II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600-1750 (New York: Academic Press, 1980).

17 Cardoso, and , Faletto, Dependency and Development in Latin America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), xxiii.

18 For an indication of the history of the concept, see Benjamin, , Higgins, Economic Development: Principles, Problems, and Policies, rev. ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1968), chaps. 12 and 14. For a comprehensive application of the notion of the dual economy in dependency terms, see Murdoch, William W., The Poverty of Nations: The Political Economy of Hunger and Population (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), chaps. 8 and 9.

19 Gallagher, and Robinson, , “The Imperialism of Free Trade,” Economic History Review, 2d series, 6 (No. 1, 1953); Myrdal, Gunnar, Economic Theory and Underdeveloped Regions (London: Gerald Duckworth, 1957). On Prebisch, see Love, Joseph L., “Raul Prebisch and the Origins of the Doctrine of Unequal Exchange,” Latin American Research Review 15 (No. 3, 1980).

20 Evans, , Dependent Development: The Alliance of Multinational, State and Local Capital in Brazil (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979). An early and especially strong statement on this matter can be found in Warren, Bill, “Imperialism and Capitalist Industrialization,” New Left Review 81 (1973). See also Henrique Cardoso, Fernando, “Dependent Capitalist Development in Latin America,” New Left Review 74 (1972), and Cardoso, , “Associated Dependent Development: Theoretical and Practical Implications,” in Stepan, Alfred, ed., Authoritarian Brazil: Origins, Politics, and Future (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973)

21 Said, , Orientalism (New York: Random House, 1978), 3

22 For a standard neoclassical economics text, see Higgins (fn. 18). For a more current restatement in particularly sharp language, see the writings of Bauer, P. T., most recently Reality and Rhetoric: Studies in the Economics of Development (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983). For a standard dependency critique of such an approach, see Todaro, Michael, Economic Development in the Third World, 2d ed. (New York: Longman, 1981).

23 Stavrianos, L. A., Global Rift: The Third World Comes of Age (New York: William Morrow, 1981).

24 Wolf, Eric, Europe and the People without History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982).

25 See, for example, discussions along this line in Evans (fn. 20), and Murdoch (fn. 18).

26 While the term “semi-periphery” appears to have been coined by Immanuel Wallerstein, the earliest use of the concept of which I am aware occurs in the idea of “go-between countries” as explained by Galtung, Johan, “A Structural Theory of Imperialism,” Journal of Peace Research 8 (No. 2, 1971).

27 See Smith, Tony, The Pattern of Imperialism: The United States, Great Britain, and the Late-Industrializing World since 1815 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981), chaps. 1 and 2. Strong attacks on world system analysis—which is the cornerstone of dependency theory—include Skocpol, Theda, “Wallerstein's World Capitalist System: A Theoretical and Historical Critique,” American Journal of Sociology 82 (March 1977); Zolberg, Aristide R., “Origins of the Modern World System: A Missing Link,” World Politics 33 (January 1981); and O'Brien, Patrick, “European Economic Development: The Contribution of the Periphery,” The Economic History Review, 2d series, 35 (February 1982).

28 Hirschman (fn. 5); Geertz, , “Conjuring with Islam,” The New York Review of Books, May 27, 1982.

29 For interesting reflections on the comparative method, see Smelser, Neil J., Comparative Methods in the Social Sciences (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1976), esp. chaps. 6 and 7; Theda Skocpol and Margaret Somers, “The Uses of Comparative History in Macrosocial Inquiry,” and Bonnell, Victoria E., “The Uses of Theory, Concepts and Comparisons in Historical Sociology,” both in Comparative Studies in Society and History 22 (No. 2, 1980)

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

World Politics
  • ISSN: 0043-8871
  • EISSN: 1086-3338
  • URL: /core/journals/world-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed