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Dependency Theory

  Dependency theory, in history and sociology, is the thesis that a number of countries, in particular in the Third World, are unable to control major aspects of their economic life, because of the dominance of industrialized countries in the world economy.

Dependency theory was first developed by economists in Latin America in the 1950s. It was established to oppose the prevailing view that Third World countries could achieve modernization and industrialization if they followed the example of those countries that had already industrialized. Proponents of dependency theory underline the uneven development of global society, which they argue, has cast the main core of the industrialized world (US, Europe and Japan) in a dominant central role, rendering the position of the Third World countries peripheral and dependent upon them.

Dependency theorists maintain that a ‘surplus’ is extracted by advanced capitalist countries from poor underdeveloped countries. The first examples of this ‘surplus extraction’ occurred when metropolitan capitalist countries plundered their colonies. Since then, however, surplus extraction is alleged to have been institutionalized normally through the repatriation of profits to the metropolis. Dependency theory has been used to explain neocolonialism in which formal political and administrative control over former colonies is replaced by economic control through the exploitation of raw materials and monopolization of import markets.

Proponents of dependency theory view economic aid and technical assistance as tools of manipulation which generate cultures of dependency. Another application of dependency theory is found in literature on the capitalist world-system which adapts Marxism to argue that dependency is an inevitable consequence of capitalism because ‘core’ economies need weaker ‘peripheral’ economies from which to extract raw materials and develop export markets for finished products. Most forms of dependency theory are overly deterministic, are both logically and empirically questionable, and no longer enjoy the intellectual currency which they once had among the Western left many of whom now recognize that it is often the lack of capitalism rather than its presence which is responsible for poverty in underdeveloped countries. DA BO\'L

See also colonialism; convergence thesis; diffusionism; evolutionism; globalization; imperialism; society; theories of modernity; world system.Further reading S. Amin, Unequal Development: an Essay on the Social Formations of Peripheral Capitalism; , R. Munck, Politics and Dependency in the Third World: the Case of Latin America.



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