Essay: The Dependency theory

Latin American countries have always been exposed to western influence. With its neo-liberalist stance the west encourages Latin America to open up its trade and cooperate with the west. During the 1960s many countries wanted to keep Western influence outside because they were convinced that this would negatively influence their development. A consequence of this attitude was the development of a theory that criticized the western liberalist stance; the dependency theory. Dependency theory criticizes western modernity. This critical stance can be explained by the fact that Latin America is historically exposed to the political, economic, cultural and intellectual influence of the US and its recurrent attempt to diminish US domination (Tickner 2008:736). The region, being part of the non-core, wants their understanding of global realities to be explored. (Tickner 2003b). However, the theory has been influenced by the west and thereby has lost strength. Moreover, its empirical validity has been questioned. For the above mentioned reasons the theory is hardly used anymore. It should not be forgotten, however, that the theory has some qualities which do contribute to the field of international relations. First this essay will discuss the post-colonial argument that dependency theory is not critical enough and gives an explanation why the theory is Eurocentric. Afterwards it will discuss its empirical validity and finally it addresses the theory its contribution to the field of international relations. Dependency theory originated in the 1960s in Latin America. Frank, the leading theorist, argues that due to the capitalist system, developing countries are underdeveloped and development is impossible as long as they remain in the capitalist system (Frank 1969). Opposed to Frank, Cardoso and Faletto argue that development is possible despite structural determination and that the local state has an important role, they call it associated dependent development ((1979:xi). Yet, both Frank and Cardoso and Falleto eventually argue that dependency paths need to be broken by constructing paths toward socialism. The dependency theorists are thus critical of Western liberalism. As mentioned above, dependency theory attempts to criticize western-modernity. Post-colonialism, however, argues that dependency theory is not counter-modernist and not critical enough. Post-colonial theorists, in contrast to many conventional theorists, state that attention to colonial origins is needed to get a better understanding of the expansion of the world order (Seth 2011). Dependency theory does pay attention to its colonial origins. For example, Frank argues that dependency occurred historically through slavery and colonialism and continues today through western dominance of the international trading system, the practices of multinational companies and the LDC’s reliance on Western aid (Frank 1969). However, post-colonialism does criticize the way how dependency theorists address the colonial origins. The first critique stems from the fact that the homogenizing and incorporating world historical scheme of dependency ignores, domesticates, or transcends difference. It does not take into account the differences in histories, cultures and peoples (Said, 1985: 22).The second critique stems from the fact that to get a sufficient understanding of the emergence of the modern international system, it should not be examined how an international society that developed in the West radiated outwards, but rather the ways in which international society was shaped by interactions between Europe and those it colonized. (Seth 2011:174). Pos-colonalists, however, argue that dependency theory is Eurocentric. Dependency theorists are not aware of the way in which culture frames their own analysis. While trying to look at imperialism from the perspective of the periphery, dependistas fail to do this (Kapoor 2002:654). For dependistas the ‘centre’ continues to be central and dominant so that the West ends up being consolidated as sovereign subject. Dependency’s ethnocentrism appears in its historical analysis as well. Dependistas use the way how capitalism developed in Europe as a universal model that stands for history and see developing countries as examples of failed or dependent capitalism. (Kapoor 2002:654) Post colonialism thus would argue that while challenging the current capitalist system, dependency theory is not critical enough because it does not adequately address history and culture and is Eurocentric. Tickner (2008) may provide an explanation of why dependency theory is not critical enough and why it is described in terms of adherence to the capitalist system dominated by the west. IR thinking in Latin America is influenced by -among other things- US intellectual knowledge. As Tickner argues, dependency theory is not a genuine non-core theory but it is influenced by US analysts. According to Cardoso (1977) this led to severe distortions in its original contents because it local internal problems of greatest concern to social scientists in Latin America became invisible and external factors such as US intervention and multinational corporations were prioritized. Furthermore, IR thinking in that region has been influenced by conventional theories. For example, through the influence of realism in Latin America, much attention was paid to the role of the elite and furthermore, theorists were concerned with the concept of power but replaced it with a more suitable concept autonomy (Tickner 2008:742).Thus the influence of US IR knowledge and conventional theories may have contributed to the fact that dependency theory is not critical enough and has lost its influence. Although post-colonialism addresses dependency’s problem – that is does not sufficiently addresses culture because of its sole focus on capitalism – it should be noted that not only culture is not taken into account but a whole range of other factors which could help explain underdevelopment are left out the theory as well. This shortcoming clarifies why dependency theory is empirical invalid.For example, dependency does not address local, physical, social or political forces that might have had a role in the inability to generate industrial development and does not acknowledge that imperialism is only partly responsible for underdevelopment (Smith 1981). As Smith argues; ”dependency theory exaggerates the explanatory power of economic imperialism as a concept to make sense of historical change in the south” (1981:757). Smith rightly points out that in some instances dependistas do recognize the influence of local circumstances but this is only so to reaffirm ultimately the overriding power of economic imperialism. Moreover, the theory does not pay any attention to the positive effects that the contact with the international system can provide for developing countries. Thus, dependistas solely look at economic power and state that as long as countries remain part of the international capitalist system development is impossible. The only way to escape is to isolate from this system or if the colonizer relinquishes political power. (Kapoor 656) However, South-Korea’s development shows the invalidity of this argument. South-Korea experienced rapid growth during the 1970s despite its dependency on the US. The case of South-Korea shows that development is possible despite dependency and that dependency can have positive effects. Another case which shows dependency’s invalidity is Ghana. During the 1980s Ghana adopted dependency policies that were consistent with the denial of the relevance of the western economic principles and tried to keep western influence outside. However, instead of bringing prosperity and greater independence for the Ghanasian economy, these policies caused poverty and greater dependence on international aid or charity (Ahiakpor 1985:13). The dependency policies did not support Ghana’s development because it only focused on capitalism without taking other factors into account.

Source: Essay UK - http://muslimschristians.com/essays/miscellaneous/essay-the-dependency-theory/


Not what you're looking for?

Search our thousands of essays:

Search:


About this resource

This Miscellaneous essay was submitted to us by a student in order to help you with your studies.



Word count:

This page has approximately words.


Share:


Cite:

If you use part of this page in your own work, you need to provide a citation, as follows:

Essay UK, Essay: The Dependency theory. Available from: <http://muslimschristians.com/essays/miscellaneous/essay-the-dependency-theory/> [19-01-19].


More information:

If you are the original author of this content and no longer wish to have it published on our website then please click on the link below to request removal:


Essay and dissertation help


Latest essays in this category:


Our free essays:

badges