The Liberal Feminist Perspective on the Family

Jennifer Somerville (2000) provides a less radical critique of the family than Marxist or Radical Feminists and suggests proposals to improve family life for women that involve modest policy reforms rather than revolutionary change. She can thus be characterised as a liberal feminist, although she herself does not use this term.

Somerville argues that many young women do not feel entirely sympathetic towards feminism yet still feel some sense of grievance.

To Somerville, many feminists have failed to acknowledge progress for women such as the greater freedom to go into paid work, and the greater degree of choice over whether they marry or cohabit, when and whether to have children, and whether to take part in a heterosexual or same-sex relationship or to simply live on their own.

Gender-Pay-Gap-1-2014-Ages-1mpk9h3
The Gender Pay Gap – At least woman aged 20-29 have caught up with men!

The increased choice for women and the rise of the dual-earner household (both partners in work) has helped create greater equality within relationships. Somerville argues that ‘some modern men are voluntarily committed to sharing in those routine necessities of family survival, or they can be persuaded, cajoled, guilt-tripped or bullied’. Despite this, however, ‘women are angry, resentful and above all disappointed in men.’ Many men do not take on their full share of responsibilities and often these men can be ‘shown the door’.

chore-wars-22dwirw-435x1024
The gendered division of labour – still a source of tension!

Somerville raises the possibility that women might do without male partners, especially as so many prove inadequate, and instead get their sense of fulfilment from their children. Unlike Germain Greer, however, Somerville does not believe that living in a household without an adult male is the answer – the high figures for remarriage suggest that heterosexual attraction and the need for intimacy and companionship mean that heterosexual families will not disappear.

However, it remains the case that the inability of men to ‘pull their weight’ in relationships means that high rates of relationship breakdowns will continue to be the norm which will lead to more complex familial relationships as women end one relationship and attempt to rebuild the next with a new (typically male) partner.

What Feminists thus need to do is to focus on policies which will encourage greater equality within relationships and to help women cope with the practicalities of daily life. One set of policies which Somerville thinks particularly important are those aimed at helping working parents. The working hours and culture associated with many jobs are incompatible with family life. Many jobs are based on the idea of a male breadwinner who relies on a non-working wife to take care of the children.

Somerville argues that in order to achieve true equality within relationships we need increased flexibility in paid employment.

Evaluation of the Liberal Feminist Perspective on the Family

Sommerville recognises that significant progress has been made in both public and private life for women

It is more appealing to a wider range of women than radical ideas

It is more practical – the system is more likely to accept small policy changes, while it would resist revolutionary change

Her work is based on a secondary analysis of previous works and is thus not backed up by empirical evidence

Radical Feminists such as Delphy, Leonard and Greer argues that she fails to deal with the Patriarchal structures and culture in contemporary family life.

A Liberal Feminist Perspective on the Family – Executive Summary

Causes of inequality in relationships – A combination of two things – (1) Mainstream working culture which requires long and inflexible working hours which are still based on the idea of the main breadwinner, (2) Men refusing to pull their weight in relationships.

Solutions to Inequality – Social Policies designed to make working hours more flexible.

Sources Used – Haralambos and Holborn – Sociology Themes and Perspectives 8th Edition

Related Posts

Feminist perspectives on the family (which covers all three types of Feminism)

The Marxist Feminist perspective on the family

The Radical Feminist perspective on the family

External sites which may be of interest 

An article from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (2014) – Women put at particular disadvantage by the requirement to work full time

Workingmums.co.uk – A site which works with policy makers and employers to encourage more flexible working hours

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Is Marxism Still Relevant Today?

Eight possible ways in which some aspects of Marxist Theory and concepts might still be relevant today… Relevant to A2 Sociology Theory and Methods (details to follow)

  1. A class based analysis of global society is still relevant if you look at things globally.
  2. Exploitation still lies at the heart of the Capitalist system if you look at the practices of many Transnational Corporations.
  3. If you look at the recent bank bail outs it appears that those with economic power still have disproportionate influence over the superstructure.
  4. If you look at how individualised we have become it appears that many people are still under ideological control – but we don’t realise it.
  5. Work is still Alienating for many people.
  6. Economic crises are still inherent to the capitalist system and that in recent years these crises have become more severe and more frequent.
  7. Capitalist exploitation is so bad in some parts of the world that there is vehement resistance to it.
  8. In Britain there are tens of thousands of people who call themselves Communists and who sympathise with Marxism and the wider anti-capitalist movement. Left Wing criticisms and the anti-capitalist movement is still very much alive today.

 

Marx: Key Ideas for AS Sociology

The Marxist Perspective is a central theory within A level Sociology. This post outlines some of the key concepts of Karl Marx such as his ideas about the social class structure, his criticisms of capitalism and communism as an alternative.

This is a slightly modified version of the AS Sociology intro handout on the basics of Karl Marx’s thought.

Karl Marx (1818- 1883) was alive in the middle of the 19th century, and it’s important to realise that his theories stem from an analysis of European societies 150 years ago.Marxism class structure

Marx travelled through Europe during the mid and later half of the 19th century where he saw much poverty and inequality.  The more he travelled the more he explained what he saw through unequal access to resources and ownership of property, wealth. He argued that the working class (proletariat) in Britain (and elsewhere) was being exploited by the ruling class (bourgeoisie).

The ruling class paid the working class less wages than they deserved, made them work long hours in poor conditions, and kept the profit from the sale of the goods produced. Thus, the ruling class got richer and the working class became increasingly poor, and had no way of improving their prospects, unless… Marx argued, they all came together to overthrow the ruling class in a revolution. Equality for all in the shape of Communism would replace an unequal capitalist system. 

Because Marx’s theory is based on criticising Capitalism, you really need to understand what Capitalism is – see the separate Handout/ blog ‘what is Capitalism’?

   Key Ideas of Karl Marx

1.    Capitalist society is divided into two classes:

The Bourgeoisie or the Capitalist class are the ones who own and control the wealth of a country. These control the productive forces in society (what Marx called the economic base), which basically consisted of land, factories and machines that could be used to produce goods that could then be sold for a profit.

The majority, or the masses, or what Marx called The Proletariat can only gain a living by selling their labour power to the bourgeoisie for a price.

2.    The bourgeoisie increase their wealth by exploiting the proletariat

Marx argued that the bourgeoisie maintain and increase their wealth through exploiting the working class.

The relationship between these two classes is exploitative because the amount of money the Capitalist pays his workers (their wages) is always below the current selling, or market price of whatever they have produced. The difference between the two is called surplus value. Marx thus says that the capitalist extracts surplus value from the worker. Because of this extraction of surplus value, the capitalist class is only able to maintain and increase their wealth at the expense of the proletariat.  To Marx, Profit is basically the accumulated exploitation of workers in capitalist society.

Marx thus argues that at root, capitalism is an unjust system because those that actually do the work are not fairly rewarded for the work that they do and the interests of the Capitalist class are in conflict with the interests of the working class.

3.    Those who have economic power control all other institutions in society

Marx argued that those who control the Economic Base also control the Superstructure – that is, those who have wealth or economic power also have political power and control over the rest of society.

Economic Base(The Mode of Production) Consists of the forces of production (tools, machinery, raw materials which people use to produce goods and services)and the relations of production (social relations between people involved in the production of goods and services). Together these make up the mode of production
Superstructure All other institutions: The legal system, the mass media, family, education etc.

4.    Ideological Control

Marx argued that the ruling classes used their control of social institutions to gain ideological dominance, or control over the way people think in society.  Marx argued that the ideas of the ruling classes were presented as common sense and natural and thus unequal, exploitative relationships were accepted by the proletariat as the norm.

5.    The result of the above is false class consciousness

The end result of ideological control is false consciousness – where the masses, or proletariat are deluded into thinking that everything is fine and that the appalling in which they live and work are inevitable. This delusion is known as False Consciousness. In Marxist terms, the masses suffer from false class consciousness and fail to realize their common interest against their exploiters.

Commodity FetishismA fetish is an object of desire, worship or obsessive concern. Capitalism is very good at producing ‘things’. In capitalist society people start to obsess about material objects and money, which is necessary to purchase these objects. Material objects and money are worshipped in capitalist societies. Some people even need material objects to construct identities – this is partly responsible for keeping most of us in ‘false consciousness’

6.    Revolution and Communism 

As far as Marx was concerned, he had realised the truth – Capitalism was unjust but people just hadn’t realised it! He believed that political action was necessary to ‘wake up’ the proletariat and bring them to revolutionary class consciousness. Eventually, following a revolution, private property would be abolished and with it the profit motive and the desire to exploit. In the communist society, people would be more equal, have greater freedom and be happier.

Criticisms of Traditional Marxism 

  • Marx’s concept of social class has been criticised as being too simplistic – today, there are clearly not just two social classes, but several; moreover, most people don’t identify with other members of their social class, so it is questionable how relevant the concept of social class is today.
  • Clearly Marx’s predictions about capitalism ending and the ‘inevitable success of communism’ have been proved wrong with the collapse of communism.
  • Capitalism has changed a lot since Marx’s day, and it appears to work for more people – it is less exploitative, so maybe this explains why it still continues to this day?

Evidence that Marxism is still Relevant Today

Contemporary Marxist sociologists argue that Marxism is still relevant in many ways. For example:

1) Family = Parents want the perfect family and they compete with one another for the best house, car, holiday and the best dressed/most successful children etc. This is encouraged through advertising and TV programmes. Significant sums of money are spent in pursuit of the “perfect” family. This benefits the bourgeoisie in two ways 1) Parents work harder at work improving profits for their companies owners – the bourgeoisie 2) Parents spend more of their salary on providing this lifestyle – this benefits the bourgeoisie as they can make more profits by selling goods and services to the parents.  Furthermore, it makes parents feel “happy” about family life and society generally, even though they might work 13hr days for an average salary, rarely seeing their family. Lastly, children grow up watching their parents behave in this manner and then replicate it as adults with their own families.

2) Media = the mainstream media is controlled by few wealthy individuals who promote the ideas and beliefs that maintain the bourgeoisie’s wealthy position in society. This encourages people to accept beliefs which benefit capitalism and legitimise (justify) the exploitation of the proletariat (workers) as normal. The media justify exploitation and even make it into games shows.

3) Education = encourages people to accept hierarchy and to be obedient. This is good for capitalism as it creates students who will later become good workers. Also, schools emphasise high achievement and high flying jobs – implicitly this means highly paid jobs, better profits for company owners and more exploitation for the workers. Schools also encourage the idea people get what they deserve in education, when in reality educational achievement is primarily a result of the chance circumstances of your birth i.e. who your parents are.

Useful videos introducing Karl Marx’s thought 

There are a lot of videos on YouTube on basic Marxism, but to my mind the two below are the most useful as introductions. Having said that, they both still contain A LOT of complex information, so don’t worry too much if you find you don’t understand everything in either or both videos!

Crash Course – Karl Marx and Conflict Theory 


This is probably better for a first year university student, but it’s still a reasonably easy introduction.

The School of Life – Karl Mark Political Thought 


This is a little heavier going than the video above, but maybe more accessible as the narrator speaks slower, and it also comes to the firm conclusion that Marxism is still relevant today!

 

Related Posts

The Marxist Perspective on the Family

The Marxist Perspective on Education

 Find out more-

Exploring the Experience of Poverty in the UK

This post provides some qualitative sources of data which explore what it’s like to be poor in Britain today, follows on from a previous post on ‘defining and measuring material deprivation in the UK’ .

One of the things you need to look at for the AS Education module is the extent to which material deprivation is responsible for educational underachievement. While statistics give you an overview of the extent of poverty, and a little bit of information of the kind of things poor people can’t afford, they don’t give you much a feeling of what it’s like to actually live in poverty.

To get a feeling for day to day challenges of living in poverty you need more qualitative sources, and ‘thankfully’ we are blessed with a number of recent documentaries which look at the experience of living with material deprivation in the UK.

Watch the documentary sources below and then answer the questions/ contribute to the discussions below. The videos have all been selected because they focus on material deprivation and education in some way.

Source One – Poor Kids (BBC – 2011) – Mainly focusing on younger children

Poverty – Britain’s Hungry Children (Channel 4 Report, 2013) – Cites research drawn from 2500 food diaries kept by children in the UK – Some of whom live on less than half of the recommended calories. Also highlights the importance of lunch clubs to feed hungry children.

Finally watch this video – This shows you a case study of one girl from a poor background who actually made it into the best school in the area, against the odds. It’s a bit slow, but later on it gives an insight into the struggle her mum faces to raise enough cash to meet the ‘hidden costs’ of education (she has to resort to a ‘pay day loan’).

Questions/ tasks for discussion:

Q1: Draw an ‘ageline’ (like a timeline, I may have just invented the word) showing how material deprivation affects 3 year olds to 18 year olds in different ways.

Q2: From a broadly Marxist Perspective, the effects of material deprivation on children are structural, or objective if you like. Being brought up in poverty and having a poorer diet, and living in lower quality housing effectively cause poor children to do less well in education. This means that, all other (non material) things being equal (same school, same intelligence, same motivation etc) a poor kid will always do worse than a rich kid. Do you agree? Be prepared to explain your answer.

Related Posts

The effects of material deprivation on education

The Extent of Material Deprivation in the UK

Material deprivation* refers to the inability to afford basic resources and services such as sufficient food and heating. To put it more simply, all of those who suffer material deprivation in the UK  exist in a state of relative poverty, and some may exist in a state of absolute poverty.

The government’s material deprivation rate measures the proportion of the population that cannot afford at least four of the following items:

  1. To pay their rent, mortgage, utility bills or loan repayments,
  2. To keep their home adequately warm,
  3. To face unexpected financial expenses,
  4. To eat meat or protein regularly,
  5. To go on holiday for a week once a year,
  6. A television set,
  7. A washing machine,
  8. A car,
  9. A telephone.

As can be seen from the statistics below, the number of people suffering from ‘severe’ material deprivation has remained stable in recent years, but the numbers of people struggling to pay for holidays and meet emergency expenses has increased. Percentage of population unable to afford items, UK 2005-2011

Related Posts 

Evaluating the Extent of Material Deprivation in the UK

The effects of material deprivation on education

Something Extra…

*A fuller definition of material deprivation is provided by the The OECD which defines Material deprivation as ‘the inability for individuals or households to afford those consumption goods and activities that are typical in a society at a given point in time, irrespective of people’s preferences with respect to these items.’ It’s work noting at this point that this is a relative rather than an absolute measurement of poverty.

Social Class and Educational Achievement Essay Plan

Evaluate the extent to which home based, rather than school – based factors account for social class based differences in educational achievement (30)

sociology essay plan social class education 2

 

sociology education revisionFocusing on home background initially, we can look at how material and cultural factors might affect a child’s education.

The lower classes are more likely to suffer from material deprivation at home which can hold children back in education because of a lack access to resources such as computers, or living in a smaller house means they would be less likely to have a quiet, personal study space. In extreme situations, children may have a worse diet and a colder house, which could mean illness and time off school. According to Gibson and Asthana, the effects of material deprivation are cumulative, creating a cycle of deprivation. This would suggest that home background influences a child’s education.

Also, the amount of money one has and the type of area one lives in affects the type of school a child can get to. Richer parents have more choice of school because they are more likely to have two cars or be able to afford public transport to get their children to a wider range of schools. Also, house prices in the catchment areas of the best schools can be up to 20% higher than similar houses in other areas – richer parents are more able to afford to move to these better schools. At the other end of the social class spectrum, those going to school in the most deprived areas may suffer disruptions in school due to gang related violence. All of this suggests that location, which is clearly part of your ‘home background’ in the broader sense of the word, is a major factor in educational achievement.

Cultural deprivation also has a negative effect on children at home. Bernstein pointed out that working class children are more likely to be socialised into the restricted speech code and so are less able to understand teachers at school compared to their middle class peers who speak in the elaborated speech code. The classes are also taught the value of immediate rather than deferred gratification, and so are less likely to see the value of higher education. In these theories, home background influences children all the way through school.

Although the concept of cultural deprivation is decasdes old, more recent research suggests it is still of relevance. Fenstein’s (2003) research found that lower income is strongly correlated with a lack of ability to communicate, while research by Conor et al (2001) found that being socialised into poverty means working class students are less likely to want to go to university than middle class students because they are more ‘debt conscious’.

Cultural Capital Theory also suggests that home background matters to an extent – this theory argues that middle class parents have the skills to research the best schools and the ability to help children with homework – and to intervene in schools if a child falls behind (as Diana’s research into the role of mothers in primary school education suggested). However, cultural capital only advantages a child because it gets them into a good school –suggesting that it is the school that matters at least as much as home background. There wouldn’t be such a fuss over, and such competition between parents over schools if the school a child went to didn’t have a major impact on a child’s education!

In fact, one could argue that probably the most significant advantage a parent can give to their child is getting them into a private school. To take an extreme case, Sunningdale preparatory school in Berkshire costs £16000/ year – a boarding school which confers enormous advantage on these children and provides personalised access via private trips to elite secondary schools Eton and Harrow. In such examples, it is not really home background that is advantaging such children – it is simply access to wealth that allows some parents to get their children into these elite boarding schools and the schools that then ‘hothouse’ their children through a ‘high ethos of expectation’ smaller class sizes and superb resources.

Similarly, the case of Mossborn Academy and Tony Sewell’s Generating Genius programme show that schools can overcome disadvantage at home – if they provide strict discipline and high expectation.

Although all of the above are just case studies and thus of limited use in generating a universal theory of what the ‘major cause’ of differences in educational achievement by social class might be, many similar studies have suggested that schools in poorer areas have a lower ethos of expectation (from Willis’ classic 1977 research on the lads to Swain’s research in 2006). It is thus reasonable to hypothesis that the type of school and in school factors such as teacher labelling and peer groups might work to disadvantage the lower classes as Becker’s theory of the ideal pupil being middle class and Willis’ work on working class counter school cultures would suggest, although in this later case, Willis argues that the lads brought with them an anti-educational working class masculinity, so home factors still matter here.

Finally – Social Capital theory also suggests that home background is not the only factor influencing a child’s education – rather it is the contacts parents have with schools – and later on schools with universities and business – that are crucial to getting children a good education, and making that education translate into a good job.

So is it home background or school factors that matter? The research above suggests home background does have a role to play, however, you certainly cannot disregard in school factors in explaining class differences in educational achievement either – in my final analysis, I would have to say that the two work together – middle class advantage at home translating into better schooling, and vice versa for the working classes.

If you like this sort of thing – then you might like my A-level sociology revision bundles: The bundle contains 5 full, 30 mark sociology of education essays, written for the AQA specification.

sociology education revision

Trust me, I’m an examiner! 

Related Posts

For links to more essays, please see my main page on exam advice, short answer questions and essays.

The Effects of Material Deprivation on Education

The Effects of Cultural Deprivation on Education

Evaluate explanations of development and under-development put forward by dependency theorists 

The plan below is just one suggestion as to how you might go about answering this essay.

Briefly introduce Dependency Theory

Dependency theory is a Marxist theory, developed in the 1970s as a criticism of Modernisation theory. The best known dependency theorist is Andre Gunder Frank

Underdevelopment is because the West exploits labour and resources in the developing world. The West gets rich at the expense of the developing world. This is in contrast with the modernisation theory which tends to assume that lack of development is because of internal cultural and economic barriers.

Dependency theorists see history as essential to understanding the situation that we are in today, pointing out that many civilizations were wealthy and complex before contact with the west –such as Aztec culture in Mexico and Chinese and Indian civilizations. It is only after Colonialism that these countries become poor relative to the West.

During Colonial Rule the core nations of the west exploited the satellite nations of the developing world.

More recently Neo-Colonialism keeps developing countries poor –

The Legacy of Colonialism

Colonialism – Where European Nations (core nations) took over other territories and turned them into satellite nations, essentially becoming the property of those nations and being subject to their laws.

Colonies were then run for the benefit of the core nations, with resources such as gold, silver and exotic foods being extracted from the colonies and exported to the west for immense profit. Local populations were often turned into slaves and controlled by occupying military forces.

This process locked much of Africa, Asia and Latin America into exploitative relationships with Western European Nations from about 1650 – 1900.

When ex-colonies gained independence from their Colonial masters (in Africa through the 1960s) they struggled to develop because of the damage done to them by Colonial rule. Two ways in which this happened are as follows:

Colonial powers turned the colonies into ‘monocultures’ – each country was used to grow and export only one or two products that were best suited to that climate. This has had a lasting consequences – Today, at least two thirds of African countries derive over 50% of their export earnings from only one or two commodities. Today, many African countries are still dependent on low value exports for much of their GDP which prevents them from developing.

Divisions and conflicts between ethnic groups were created during colonialism as those tribes loyal to the colonising powers were given economic and political power. It tended to be those tribes that came to power following independence, causing heightened tension between them and opposing ethnic groups. The worst case of this is the Rwandan Genocide of the 1990s.

Neo-colonialism

According to dependency theorists although colonies have gained political independence, they are still exploited economically by more developed countries – a situation which Frank describes as Neo-Colonialism. Neo-Colonialism takes the following forms

Unfair Trade Rules World trade is not a level playing field – The best example of this is in Agriculture – Agriculture is Africa’s biggest economic sector. It has the capacity to produce a lot more food and export to Europe and America but it can’t because the EU and America spend billions every year subsidising their farmers so imported African products seem more expensive

Tied Aid – Aid packages from the World Bank often come with strings attached – In return for a development loan, for example, a country might be asked to privatise certain sectors and allow Western companies in to run those services, ultimately benefitting western interests.

Western Corporations use their economic power to negotiate favourable tax deals in the developing world. A good case in point here is the mining Company Glencore in Zambia – The company recently arranged a long term contract to mine copper with the Zambian government – it exports $6 billion a year in copper from Zambia, but pays only $50m in tax, while as part of the deal the Zambian government is contractually obliged to pay for all the electricity costs of mining – a total of $150m a year.

STRATEGIES FOR DEVELOPMENT

For some dependency theorists, underdevelopment appears permanent; the only way out of dependency is for an underdeveloped nation to escape from the global capitalist system and master-servant relationship with richer countries, taking action itself rather than relying on outside help. Countries need to find alternative pathways to development that protect their fragile economies from Western Capitalist-Industrialist Capitalism. Some alternatives include:

  • Isolation, as in the example of China from about 1960 to 2000, which is now successfully emerging as a global economic superpower having isolated itself from the West for the past 4 decades. Another, different example, is that of Bhutan.
  • Socialist revolution as in the case of Cuba. This resulted in sanctions being applies by America which limited trade with the country, holding its development back.
  • Alternatively there is Associate or dependent development. – Here, one can be part of the system, and adopt national economic policies to being about economic growth such as. Import substitution industrialisation where industrialisation produces consumer goods that would normally be imported from abroad, as successfully adopted by many South American countries.

Evaluation

Some countries benefited from Colonialism – India for example benefitted from the transport networks put in place under British Colonial Rule, whereas many countries that were never colonised, such as Afghanistan, are much less developed.

Modernisation theory would argue that at least some satellite nations have benefited from TNC investment, as with the Asian Tiger economies such as Korea benefited from investment by Japanese TNCs.

Neoliberalism points out that it would be wrong to purely blame western TNCs for the dependency of Satellite Nations. Corrupt governments are just as much to blame today.

Paul Collier’s theory of the bottom billion suggests there are more reasons other than

Colonialism that explain why certain countries are underdeveloped. Two of these include the ‘resource curse’ and ‘corruption’

Conclusion

It is important to recognise that the history of colonialism has held some countries back, and that isolation has worked as a route to development for some nations such as China. However, in today’s rapidly changing, ex-colonial world, in which many ex-colonies are developing successfully and even due to overtake European Nations by 2050 (India and Brazil) it is clear that in the long term Dependency Theory is not sufficient to explain why some countries are developed and others are developing.

Having said this it does need to be recognised that in many countries neo-colonialism does seem to prevent development, and the idea that the west needs to look at how its policies affect developing countries is also sensible. and moreover it is unclear that this model of development which defines development as being characterised by industrialisation, strong nation states, and economic growth is applicable today – It might be the case that alternative models and notions of development are the only way to guarantee the long term sustainable future of the 7 billion people on earth today

Related Posts.

Dependency Theory – detailed class notes 

Dependency Theory

This post is a brief summary of the Dependency Theory view of Development and Underdevelopment. It is, broadly speaking, a Marxist theory of development.

Andre Gunder Frank (1971) argues that developing nations have failed to develop not because of ‘internal barriers to development’ as modernization theorists argue, but because the developed West has systematically underdeveloped them, keeping them in a state of dependency (hence ‘dependency theory’.)

The World Capitalist System

Frank argued that a world capitalist system emerged in the 16th century which progressively locked Latin America, Asia and Africa into an unequal and exploitative relationship with the more powerful European nations.

This world Capitalist system is organised as an interlocking chain: at one end are the wealthy ‘metropolis’ or ‘core’ nations (European nations), and at the other are the undeveloped ‘satellite’ or ‘periphery’ nations. The core nations are able to exploit the peripheral nations because of their superior economic and military power.

From Frank’s dependency perspective, world history from 1500 to the 1960s is best understood as a process whereby wealthier European nations accumulated enormous wealth through extracting natural resources from the developing world, the profits of which paid for their industrialisation and economic and social development, while the developing countries were made destitute in the process.

Writing in the late 1960s, Frank argued that the developed nations had a vested interest in keeping poor countries  in a state of underdevelopment so they could continue to benefit from their economic weakness – desperate countries are prepared to sell raw materials for a cheaper price, and the workers will work for less than people in more economically powerful countries. According to Frank, developed nations actually fear the development of poorer countries because their development threatens the dominance and prosperity of the West.

Colonialism, Slavery and Dependency

Colonialism is a process through which a more powerful nation takes control of another territory, settles it, takes political control of that territory and exploits its resources for its own benefit. Under colonial rule, colonies are effectively seen as part of the mother country and are not viewed as independent entities in their own right. Colonialism is fundamentally tied up with the process of ‘Empire building’ or ‘Imperialism’.

According to Frank the main period of colonial expansion was from 1650 to 1900 when European powers, with Britain to the fore, used their superior naval and military technology to conquer and colonise most of the rest of the world.

During this 250 year period the European ‘metropolis’ powers basically saw the rest of the world as a place from which to extract resources and thus wealth. In some regions extraction took the simple form of mining precious metals or resources – in the early days of colonialism, for example, the Portuguese and Spanish extracted huge volumes of gold and silver from colonies in South America, and later on, as the industrial revolution took off in Europe, Belgium profited hugely from extracting rubber (for car tyres) from its colony in DRC, and the United Kingdom profited from oil reserves in what is now Saudi Arabia.

In other parts of the world (where there were no raw materials to be mined), the European colonial powers established plantations on their colonies, with each colony producing different agricultural products for export back to the ‘mother land’. As colonialism evolved, different colonies came to specialise in the production of different raw materials (dependent on climate) – Bananas and Sugar Cane from the Caribbean, Cocoa (and of course slaves) from West Africa, Coffee from East Africa, Tea from India, and spices such as Nutmeg from Indonesia.

All of this resulted in huge social changes in the colonial regions: in order to set up their plantations and extract resources the colonial powers had to establish local systems of government in order to organise labour and keep social order – sometimes brute force was used to do this, but a more efficient tactic was to employ willing natives to run local government on behalf of the colonial powers, rewarding them with money and status for keeping the peace and the resources flowing out of the colonial territory and back to the mother country.

Dependency Theorists argue that such policies enhanced divisions between ethnic groups and sowed the seeds of ethnic conflict in years to come, following independence from colonial rule. In Rwanda for example, the Belgians made the minority Tutsis into the ruling elite, giving them power over the majority Hutus. Before colonial rule there was very little tension between these two groups, but tensions progressively increased once the Belgians defined the Tutsis as politically superior. Following independence it was this ethnic division which went on to fuel the Rwandan Genocide of the 1990s.

An unequal and dependent relationship

What is often forgotten in world history is the fact that before colonialism started, there were a number of well-functioning political and economic systems around the globe, most of them based on small-scale subsistence farming. 400 years of colonialism brought all that to end.

Colonialism destroyed local economies which were self-sufficient and independent and replaced them with plantation mono-crop economies which were geared up to export one product to the mother country. This meant that whole populations had effectively gone from growing their own food and producing their own goods, to earning wages from growing and harvesting sugar, tea, or coffee for export back to Europe.

As a result of this some colonies actually became dependent on their colonial masters for food imports, which of course resulted in even more profit for the colonial powers as this food had to be purchased with the scant wages earnt by the colonies.

The wealth which flowed from Latin America, Asia and Africa into the European countries provided the funds to kick start the industrial revolution, which enabled European countries to start producing higher value, manufactured goods for export which further accelerated the wealth generating capacity of the colonial powers, and lead to increasing inequality between Europe and the rest of the world.

The products manufactured through industrialisation eventually made their way into the markets of developing countries, which further undermined local economies, as well as the capacity for these countries to develop on their own terms. A good example of this is in India in the 1930s-40s where cheap imports of textiles manufactured in Britain undermined local hand-weaving industries. It was precisely this process that Ghandi resisted as the leading figure of the Indian Independence movement.

Neo-colonialism

By the 1960s most colonies had achieved their independence, but European nations continued to see developing countries as sources of cheap raw materials and labour and, according to Dependency Theory,  they had no interest in developing them because they continued to benefit from their poverty.

Exploitation continued via neo-colonialism – which describes a situation where European powers no longer have direct political control over countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa, but they continue to exploit them economically in more subtle ways.

Frank identities three main types of neo-colonialism:

Firstly, the terms of trade continue to benefit Western interests. Following colonialism, many of the ex-colonies were dependent for their export earnings on primary products, mostly agricultural cash crops such as Coffee or Tea which have very little value in themselves – It is the processing of those raw materials which adds value to them, and the processing takes place mainly in the West

Second, Frank highlights the increasing dominance of Transnational Corporations in exploiting labour and resources in poor countries – because these companies are globally mobile, they are able to make poor countries compete in a ‘race to the bottom’ in which they offer lower and lower wages to attract the company, which does not promote development.

Finally, Frank argues that Western aid money is another means whereby rich countries continue to exploit poor countries and keep them dependent on them – aid is, in fact, often in the term of loans, which come with conditions attached, such as requiring that poor countries open up their markets to Western corporations.

Strategies for Development 

  1. Breaking away from dependency

  2. Associate or dependent development

  1. Breaking away from dependency

This view argues that dependency is not just a phase, but rather a permanent position. The only way developing countries can escape dependency is to escape from the whole capitalist system. Under this category, there are different paths to development:

  • Isolation, as in the example of China from about 1960 to 2000, which is now successfully emerging as a global economic superpower having isolated itself from the West for the past 4 decades.

  • A second solution is to break away at a time when the metropolis country is weak, as India did in Britain in the 1950s, following world war 2. India is now a rising economic power.

  • Thirdly, there is socialist revolution as in the case of Cuba. This, however, resulted in sanctions being applies by America which limited trade with the country, holding its development back.

  • Many leaders in African countries adopted dependency theory, arguing that and developing political movements that aimed to liberate Africa from western exploitation, stressing nationalism rather than neo-colonialism.

  1. Associate or dependent development.

Here, one can be part of the system, and adopt national economic policies to being about economic growth such as

Import substitution industrialisation where industrialisation produces consumer goods that would normally be imported from abroad, as successfully adopted by many South American countries. The biggest failure of this, however, was that it did not address inequalities within the countries. ISI was controlled by elites, and these policies lead to economic growth while increasing inequality.

Criticisms of Dependency Theory

1. Some countries appear to have benefited from Colonialism – Goldethorpe (1975) pointed out that those countries that had been colonised at least have the benefits of good transport and communication networks, such as India, whereas many countries that were never colonised, such as Ethiopia, are much less developed.

2. Modernisation theorists would argue against the view that Isolation and communist revolution is an effective path to development, given the well-known failings of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe. They would also point out that many developing countries have benefitted from Aid-for Development programmes run by western governments, and that those countries which have adopted Capitalist models of development since World War Two have developed at a faster rate than those that pursued communism.

3. Neoliberalists would argue that it is mainly internal factors that lead to underdevelopment, not exploitation – They argue that it is corruption within governments (poor governance) that is mainly to blame for the lack of development in many African countries. According to Neoliberals what Africa needs is less isolation and more Capitalism.

4. Later on we will come across Paul Collier’s theory of the bottom billion. He argues that the causes of underdevelopment cannot be reduced to a history of exploitation. He argues that factors such as civil wars, ethnic tensions and being land-locked with poor neighbours are correlated with underdevelopment.

Related Posts 

Evaluate explanations of development and underdevelopment put forward by dependency theorists – essay plan

World Systems Theory

The New Rulers of the World – summary of the documentary by John Pilger, which seems to be a pretty unambiguous dependency theory perspective on the role of the World Bank, the IMF, and Transnational Corporations in globalisation. The video focuses especially on their role in underdevelopment in Indonesia.

Neoliberalism

People Centred Development

 

Modernisation Theory (Development and Underdevelopment)

Modernisation Theory

Historical Context (1940s and 50s)

By the end of WW2 it had become clear that despite exposure to Capitalism many of the countries of the South had failed to develop. In this context, in the late 1940s, Modernisation Theory was developed. Modernisation theory had two major aims

  • It attempted to explain why poorer countries have failed to develop, focussing on what cultural and economic conditions might act as ‘barriers’ to development

  • It aimed to provide a non-communist solution to poverty in the developing world by suggesting that economic change (in the form of Capitalism) and the introduction of western values and culture could play a key role in bringing about modernisation.

NB – These are ‘bare bones’ revision notes – this updated post provides a much more account of modernization theory.

Why countries are underdeveloped: Cultural and economic barriers to development

Modernisation theorists argue that there are a number of cultural and economic barriers that prevent traditional societies from developing.

Cultural barriers are seen as internal to the country – it is essentially their fault for being backward. Western culture, on the other hand, is seen as having a superior culture that has allowed for it to develop.

Traditional Values –prevent economic growth and change

Modern Values – inspire change and economic growth.

Simple division of labour, less specialised job roles, individuals rely on a few dozen people in their local communities for basic needs to be met.

Complex division of labour, individuals tend to have very specialised jobs and rely on thousands of others for basic needs to be met

Religious beliefs and tradition influence day to to day life (resistance to change)

Rational decision making (cost benefit analysis and efficiency) are more important.

Stronger community and family bonds and collectivism

Weaker community and family bonds means more individual freedom.

Affective relationships

Meritocracy –people are more motivated to innovate and change society for the better.

Patriarchy

Gender equality

Economic barriers to development

These are barriers which may make developing countries unattractive to investors.

  • Lack of infrastructure

  • Lack of technology

  • Lack of skills in the work force

  • Political instability

  • Lack of capital in the country

See the next sheet for details of modernisation theory

Modernisation Theory 2: How countries should develop

Rostow believed that an initial injection of aid from the west in the form of training, education, economic investment etc. would be enough to jolt a society into economic growth overcoming these cultural barriers.

Rostow suggested that development should be seen as an evolutionary process in which countries progress up 5 stages of a development ladder

Rostow’s five stage model of development

Stage 1 – Traditional societies whose economies are dominated by subsistence farming. Such societies have little wealth to invest and have limited access to modern industry and technology. Rostow argued that at this stage there are cultural barriers to development (see sheet 6)

Stage 2 – The preconditions for take off – the stage in which western aid packages brings western values, practises and expertise into the society. This can take the form of:

  • Science and technology – to improve agriculture

  • Infrastructure – improving roads and cities communications

  • Industry – western companies establishing factories

These provide the conditions for investment, attracting more companies into the country.

Stage 3 – Take off stage –The society experiences economic growth as new modern practices become the norm. Profits are reinvested in infrastructure etc. and a new entrepreneurial class emerges and urbanised that is willing to invest further and take risks. The country now moves beyond subsistence economy and starts exporting goods to other countries

This generates more wealth which then trickles down to the population as a whole who are then able to become consumers of new products produced by new industries there and from abroad.

Stage 4- the drive to maturity.

More economic growth and investment in education, media and birth control. The population start to realise new opportunities opening up and strive to make the most of their lives.

Stage 5 The age of high mass consumption. This is where economic growth and production are at Western levels.

Variations on Rostow’s 5 stage model

Different theorists stress the importance of different types of assistance or interventions that could jolt countries out their traditional ways and bring about change.

  • Hoselitz – education is most important as it should speed up the introduction of Western values such as universalism, individualism, competition and achievement measured by examinations. This was seen as a way of breaking the link between family and children.

  • Inkeles – media – Important to diffuse ideas non traditional such as family planning and democracy

  • Hoselitz – urbanisation. The theory here is that if populations are packed more closely together new ideas are more likely to spread than amongst diffuse rural populations

Criticisms of Modernisation Theory

  1. The Asian Tiger economies combined elements of traditional culture with Western Capitalism to experience some of the most rapid economic growth of the past 2 decades.

  1. Ignores the ‘crisis of modernism’ in both the developed and developing worlds. Many developed countries have huge inequalities and the greater the level of inequality the greater the degree of other problems: High crime rates, suicide rates, health problems, drug abuse.

  1. Ethnocentric interpretations tend to exclude contributions from thinkers in the developing world. This is a one size fits all model, and is not culture specific.

  1. The model assumes that countries need the help of outside forces. The central role is on experts and money coming in from the outside, parachuted in, and this downgrades the role of local knowledge and initiatives. This approach can be seen as demeaning and dehumanising for local populations. Galeano (1992) argues that minds become colonised with the idea that they are dependent on outside forces. They train you to be paralysed and then sell you crutches. There are alternative models of development: See sheet no…

  1. Corruption (Kleptocracy) prevents aid of any kind doing good, Much aid is siphoned off by corrupt elites and government officials rather than getting to the projects it was earmarked for. This means that aid creates more inequality and enables elites to maintain power

  1. There are ecological limits to growth. Many modernisation projects such mining and forestry have lead to the destruction of environment.

  1. Social damage – Some development projects such as dams have lead to local populations being removed forcibly from their home lands with little or no compensation being paid.

  2. Some Marxist theorists argue that aid and development is not really about helping the developing world at all. It is really about changing societies just enough so they are easier to exploit, making western companies and countries richer, opening them up to exploit cheap natural resources and cheap labour. Joseph Stiglitz notes that those countries that followed alternative models of development ignoring western advice are now competing with the west, China and India are two examples.

Global Development Revision Notes

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Global Development Revision Notes

 Global Development Notes Cover53 Pages of revision notes covering the following topics within global development:

  1. Globalisation
  2. Defining and measuring development
  3. Theories of development (Modernisation Theory etc)
  4. Aid, trade and development
  5. The role of organisations in development (TNCs etc)
  6. Industrialisation, urbanisation and development
  7. Employment, education and health as aspects of development
  8. Gender and development
  9. War, conflict and development
  10. Population growth and consumption
  11. The environment and sustainable development