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Theories of Development,Sew

Theories of Development,Sew

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Published by: sewnetme4144 on Aug 03, 2009
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07/16/2014

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The place of Culture and Tradition in Theories of Development
 By: Sewnet Mekonnen Department of Sociology Delhi School of EconomicsUniversity of Delhi2006 
This essay is an attempt to show how culture and tradition have been conceptualized inthe theories/approaches of development. For this purpose major theories of developmentwill first be described and how culture and tradition configure in those approaches isindicated. Concluding remarks will be made based on what has been presented.Until recently the significance of culture has been played down by writers andcommentators on the issue. Such neglect of culture and tradition has been mainlyattributed to the timing and locus of the emergence of development theory itself,(Fukuyama, 2001:3134).The emergence of development theory as a separate body of ideas coincides with the endof the second world war (WW II) in 1945, the time when Western Europe was devastated by the war and the United States of America emerged as a major political and economic power in the world. This the time when many countries in Asia a Africa got their independence from colonial rule and the beginning of the Cold War in which the USAstarted every means available to contain Russian led communism from spreading to thenewly independent countries .This had important implications in terms of the underlyingassumption, methodology, and policy options of development, (Worsely, in Skelton andAllen, 1999:30).
Modernization
is considered to be the major development theory which evolved from twoideas about social change that developed in the 19
th
century: 1) the conception of 
traditional versus modern societies
and, 2)
 Positivism
that viewed development associetal evolution in progressive stages of growth.According to modernization theory, problems that held back the industrialization of poor countries were related to irrational ways in which resources are allocated in suchsocieties. Tradition had no function to perform in development; it is in fact an obstacle to
 
modernization. Even though its major proponent W.W. Rostow recognized theimportance of ideas and values besides appropriate economic, technological, anddemographic conditions to development, practitioners and academics of modernizationdid not pay much attention to that aspect. That may be one of the reasons why culture andtradition were given little attention in approaches to development for so long.The policy implications of such an approach are self evident. Traditional societies can become modern only through rationalizing resources allocation and the elimination of cultural, institutional and organizational roadblocks that did not allow countries todevelop. Rostow (1960) suggests that countries with traditional societies could evolve bystarting in a stage with undeveloped and traditional one and through one path /linear  process to change their societies to a stage of modern rational and developed society. Heidentified different stages, variables and processes through which a society develops fromtraditional to modern:1) Traditional society,2) Precondition for take off,3) Take off,4) The drive to maturity, and5) The stage of high mass consumption.According to Rostow and other proponents of modernization, modern societies are thosethat resemble western capitalist societies and traditional societies and traditional societiesare residual category comprising the rest of the world including peoples of Africa, Asiaand Latin America. The theory looks much of the world in the same way as themainstream liberal thought sprang with the early capitalist system. Modernization theorysimply renders such concepts as “the White Man’s Burden”, “The Civilizing Mission”,etc. as abstract social thought. From this one can observe that the timing and locus of modernization theory help to explain its ethnocentric and self-serving world view whichcharacterized non-western cultures and traditions as unimportant or obstacles todevelopment. It was only in the 1980s that this western biased approach had beenquestioned on the observation that some features of pre-industrial societies are
 
inconsistent with the societal models of industrial countries and these features should betaken into account.In the late 1960’s new models countered modernization theory the chief among whichknown as the dependency or underdevelopment school propounded by Andre Gunder Frank and the world system theory of Immanuel Wallerstien. The argument of dependency and world system schools is similar and states that since the industrialrevolution in Europe, capitalism and its market have been developing and expanding a setof core nations (those with capital and other forms of material wealth)and a set of  peripheral countries( the rest of the world ) that have become dependent on the core. Thecore countries have entered the peripheries in search of land, raw materials labour, andnew consumer markets. As capitalism expands from its core in Western Europe and NorthAmerica, ever larger portions of the globe and growing shares of the human populationhave been incorporated in the world capitalist system. The result of this relationship is theever growth of the core at the expense of the underdevelopment of the periphery. Thesolution for this “development of underdevelopment” of the periphery is not continuousimitation of the core but through complete breakdown of that dependent relationshipsince it is difficult to duplicate the conditions necessary for economic development alongthe lines of the western (core) model.The dependency school ,though it criticized the modernization theory on the latter’s ideathat traditional societies should imitate the methods and strategies of the west ,it is similar to it because in both models economic growth is emphasized as the main aspect of development and the role of culture and tradition have been downplayed or ignored.In order to remedy the defects of dependency and modernization schools, variousapproaches to development had been suggested. To mention but few basic needsapproach, Structural Adjustment Porgramme, Adjustment with a Human Face,Sustainable Development are some of the models. For instance the basic needs approachwhich became very popular in the early 1970’s takes the position that in the development policies and programs priority must be given to meeting basic necessities.Development approaches like basic needs are indicators the recognition of culture andhuman values as important factors in development. It was not an accident, therefore, that

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