China’s development over the last three decades has depended heavily on its investment in Africa: it relies on a number of natural resources extracted from Africa, and is also one of the major leasers of land in Africa (which it uses to export crops back to China). In order to facilitate the extraction of natural resources, return, thousands of Chinese workers now live and work in Africa, and the Chinese have developed infrastructure (roads for example) in many African countries.
The Chinese claim that most partnerships between Chinese businesses in Africa are mutually beneficial, a win-win arrangement between the Chinese and the ‘host nation’ – China gets resources, Africans get jobs and development.
Critics, however say that what the Chinese are doing in Africa is just a continuation of colonialism, and another form of neo-colonialism: it is basically a wealthier nation extracting resources as cheaply as possible from desperately poor countries and giving them as little as possible in return.
The three articles below are well worth a read to get an idea about the range of opinion on this matter:
This Global Policy article: ‘The New Colonialism in Africa’ makes the case (as you can tell by the title) that China are basically neo-colonists
A summary of The End of Development: A Global History of Poverty and Prosperity, by Andrew Brooks (2017)
This blog post covers Part 1: Making the Modern World
Chapter 1: environmental determinism and early human history
The argument in this chapter is that nature (as in the natural environment) does not determine human society and culture, rather it is more accurate to talk of humans shaping nature, especially since the emergence of agricultural societies 12000 years ago.
From between 12-8000 years ago, agricultural societies emerged independently in 11 distinct places, and in each region, these societies domesticated crops and animals, thus adapting to and changing local environments in different ways.
Agricultural societies eventually came to dominate hunter gather societies because they are more resistant to environmental shocks, given their greater capacity to store food to see them through famine periods.
Early agricultural societies also allowed for the development of a specialized division of labour, and were organised along feudal lines, with a tiered hierarchy of ruling classes taking tribute from those working the land. Europe in the 15th century was only one such system among many historical antecedants.
Brooks rounds this chapter off by reminding us that Europe did not colonize the rest of the world because of some kind of manifest destiny based on a unique set of environmental and cultural advantages, there were plenty of other cultures existing around the world in the 15th century that had similar features to the European feudal system.
What Europe did have was an emerging capitalist system, it is this that sets it apart and explains its rise to globalpower from the 15th century onwards.
Chapter 2: colonizing the world
This chapter outlines a brief history of colonialism, starting with the early colonial projects of Spain and Portugal in the Americas, which provided the silver and gold which kick started the global capitalist economy.
Brooks goes on to outline European colonial expansion across the globe more generally, arguing that European big business, governments and religion all worked together to dominate The Americas, Asia and Africa – often exploiting existing power structures to establish rule: profit, politics, piety and patriarchy all played a role in reshaping the colonial world from 1992 to 1945.
Brooks breaks down the history of colonialism something like this:
1500 – 1650 – Spanish and Portuguese colonialism – which involved the extraction of gold and silver, which was used to finance wars against Islam and other European nations. Spain also borrowed heavily from Holland on the basis of expected future returns from its mines in Latin America. This led to the establishment of financial centers in Holland, and increasing wealth. Span eventually went into decline as its wars were unsuccessful and its colonial returns decreased
1650 – 1900 – Dutch and British colonialism – A newly rich Holland and Britain took over as the main colonial powers – state building was essential to this – a combination of political power and the granting of monopolies to the Dutch and British East India companies (for example) led to the increasing dominance of these two powers.
Brooks also outlines how slavery and the industrial revolution were crucial to the rise of these two powers, and includes a section on the famine in India to illustrate how brutal their colonial projects were.
It’s also important to realise that increasing inequality was an important aspect of Colonialism – obviously between Europe and poorer parts of the world, but there were also some colonies which were more prosperous (such as Australia) and also, within the the mother countries and colonies, this period of history led to increasing inequality.
The chapter rounds of by pointing out that from 1900, the base of world power is already starting to shift from European centers to America.
Chapter Three: American Colonialism
This chapter starts with the ‘rise and fall of Detroit‘ which illustrates how industrial capitalism led to huge economic growth in America from the late 19th century to the 1960s, only to decline once industrial production moved abroad.
Brooks now argues that, following US Independence in 1776, American capitalists essentially focused on colonising the homeland rather than overseas territories, as there was so much land and so many resources within America – typically treating native Americans as non-people, who ended up in reservations.
There was some expansion overseas during the 19th and early 20th centuries – most notably with establishment of the Panama canal, but the ideology of American isolationism prevented this from happening.
It was effectively WW1 which led America to become to the world’s global hegemon – through lending money to the Allies, it built up huge economic dominance, which only grew as Europe was thrown into turmoil during WW2, following which America rose to dominance as the country which would seek to ‘develop’ the rest of the world, which is the focus of part two of the book….. (to be updated later)
The history of Detroit, USA from 1900 to the present day present offers an interesting case study in the benefits of industrial modernity in the early 20th century, and the problems caused by modernity’s decline from the 1960s.
Detroit underwent a rapid process of industrialization in the early part of the 20th century, which led to enormous prosperity and wealth being generated which was, by and large, shared by the majority of the city’s population. Detroit is synonymous with Henry Ford, and the particular model of industrial-capitalism which he basically invented – mechanized production and decent wages and benefits for his workers.
However, the second half the century saw Detroit spiral into a decline of de-industrialization, state-bankruptcy, inequality, and social unrest.
The Rise of Detroit: Industrialization from the 1900s to the 1950s
In its hey day, Detroit represents one of the most successful case studies in Industrialization in world history. The case of Detroit helps us to understand why Modernization Theorists in the 1940s and 50s were so keen on exporting Capitalist-Industrialization as a model of development for other countries: basically industrialization brought about many positive developments and so it seemed logical to export it.
By the late 19th century Detroit’s industry included leading shipbuilding, pharmaceutical and railway businesses. Detroit was successful because it was strategically located near to natural resources and markets via railroads and steamboats, and from the mid 19th century there was no place that better represented American progress and power.
Detroit was the Motor city that helped drive the United States forward, and the most well-known company which was based there was the Ford Motor Company – in 1932, its Rouge River industrial complex was the largest integrated factory in the world, with its own docks, railway lines, power station and plant, and over 100 000 workers, and 120 miles of conveyor belt.
Raw materials including iron ore and coal arrived by barge and rail and completed for Model Bs rolled off the end of the vertically integrated production lines.
In 1932 Henry Ford’s son commissioned the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera to paint scenes of the nearby Ford factories, which can today be viewed in the Detroit Institute of Art. Rivera’s murals captured the heat, energy and dynamism of the factories, but also the political and social tensions of time. Rivera was a communist, while Ford was a staunch opponent of labour organisations, and Rivera’s murals show workers working in harmony with machines, but also hint at the struggles between management and employees, which would become much more marked in the following decades.
Through industrialization, both the human bodies of the workers and the landscape came to serve the needs of industrial capital, and women and men experienced this in very different ways, with men working in the factories, and women, by and large, staying at home, restricted to the private sphere.
The Ford family grew incredibly wealthy through their mastery of technology and production lines and their extraction of surplus value from the labour of workers. Mass production was perfected by Ford – his famous Model T was launched in 1900, and by 1918, half of all cars in America were Model Ts.
Ford not only transformed the economic organisation of society, he also helped transformed its social organisation – he invested much of his profit into social welfare – by establishing an art institute and the Henry Ford Hospital, for example, while the relatively high wages he paid to his workers helped them to increase their consumption and enjoy new leisure opportunities, helping to forge a new consumer culture. This compromise between capital and labour is known as Fordism.
In the 20th century, Detroit became a booming metropolis. The Ford Factory was only the largest of 125 motor factories in the city in the early 20th century, and there were many other industries to. The population of Detroit soared from under 80 000 in 1870 to over 1.5 million in 1930, making it the fourth largest city in America at that time.
The assembly lines and the rhythms of work gave new arrivals a purpose and set in motion a relentless movement towards modernity and progress. Mass production would lead mass employment and in turn enable mass consumption. Detroit was the world’s greatest working-class city in the most prosperous nation on earth. The automotive industry and the giants such as Ford and General Motors and Chrysler that dominated Detroit were what California’s Silicon Valley and the tech monopolies of Apple, Google and Twitter are to today’s era of smartphones, software and social media.
The Great depression of the 1930s struck a devastating blow as automobile sales fell rapidly, but the city was revitalized by the Second World War as car factories were rebooted to produce tanks and planes for the US military and its allies. Detroit became the ‘arsenal of democracy’.
Following victory the whole American economy was booming and a second great period of Fordism surged forwards as mass automobile ownership spread across the United States. Great chrome Cadillacs and luxury Lincolns sailed off the production lines in the 1950s like polished ocean cruisers….
However, from the late 1960s onward, a combination of the growth of industrial competition from abroad and underlying social and ethnic tensions in Detroit would lead the city into a spiral of de-industrial decline…..
The Decline of Detroit
Beneath the gloss of mass consumption Detroit always hid inequalities.
On July 23 1967 police busted an illegal after-hours salon in a black neighborhood. 85 people were arrested and tempers rose between the detainees and the officers. A five day riot ensued which was quashed by 17000 police, national guard and troops resulting in over 7000 arrests.
Black people were expressing their resentment over limited housing and economic opportunities and a history of racial discrimination and violence. Detroit increasingly became a black majority city as the white working classes moved to the suburbs (80 000 left in 1968 alone), leaving Detroit city in a decline of mass unemployment and rising crime.
A downward spiral continued into the 1970s as American manufacturers faced increasing competition from abroad and moved production to cheaper locations to cut cost, leaving further unemployment in their wake.
Detroit city further suffered because remaining managers and workers moved out to the suburbs or smaller towns just outside of the city – because tax revenue was heavily reliant on property taxes, Detroit city lost a considerable amount of its tax revenue, while the administrative centers around Detroit were well funded by the relatively well off workers who had moved to them. Detroit became a divided city – with wealthy, well funded suburbs and a declining, underfunded central city authority with massive social problems.
The 2007/08 financial crisis shook the auto industry to its core – but companies such as Chrysler and General Motors were bailed out by the Federal government, and have since recovered – Across metro Detroit half a million people still work in manufacturing, 130 000 in the auto industry, and they earn 75% above the state average salary.
Detroit city, on the other hand, did not fare so well during the financial crisis and in 2013 underwent the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history.
To emphasize the inequality in Detroit:
In Livingstone county, which is 96% white, the median household income is $73000
In Detroit City, which is 82.7% black, the median household income is $26, 000 and nearly 40% of people live in poverty.
Detroit south of the 8 Mile boundary – made famous by Eminem’s 8 Mile movie, is considered to have one of the highest murder rates in the country, and there are over 100 000 empty properties.
There are some positive development projects going on in Detroit, but the stark difference between rich and poor in the wider region is plain for any observer to see.
Lessons from Detroit
Detroit is important because it is a signal case for what is happening in many industrialized countries around the world – across the rust belt in America and mirrored in Southern European countries and northern England as well.
It reminds us that impoverishment is not just limited to the global south.
Modified from Andrew Brooks (2017) The End of Development (I’d classify this as alefty take on development!)
By the end of the Second World War many of the countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America had failed to develop and remained poor, despite exposure to capitalism. There was concern amongst the leaders of the western developed countries, especially the United States, that communism might spread into many of these countries, potentially harming American business interests abroad and diminishing U.S. Power.
In this context, in the late 1940s, modernisation theory was developed, which aimed to provide a specifically non-communist solution to poverty in the developing world – Its aim was to spread a specifically industrialised, capitalist model of development through the promotion of Western, democratic values.
There are two main aspects of modernisation theory – (1) its explanation of why poor countries are underdeveloped, and (2) its proposed solution to underdevelopment.
Modernisation theory explained the underdevelopment of countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America primarily in terms of cultural ‘barriers’ to development’, basically arguing that developing countries were underdeveloped because their traditional values held them back; other modernisation theorists focused more on economic barriers to development.
In order to develop, less developed countries basically needed to adopt a similar path to development to the West. They needed to adopt Western cultural values and industrialise in order to promote economic growth. In order to do this they would need help from Western governments and companies, in the form of aid and investment.
Modernisation theory favoured a capitalist- industrial model of development – they believed that capitalism (the free market) encouraged efficient production through industrialisation, the process of moving towards factory based production.
Industrial –refers to production taking place in factories rather than in the home or small workshops. This is large scale production. (Think car plants and conveyer belts).
Capitalism – a system where private money is invested in industry in order to make a profit and goods are produced are for sale in the market place rather than for private consumption.
There are alternative systems of production to Capitalism – subsistence systems are where local communities produce what they need and goods produced for sale are kept to a minimum; and Communism, where a central authority decides what should be produced rather than consumer demand and desire for profit. (Need drives production in Communism, individual wants or desires (‘demand’) in Capitalism)
Modernisation Theory: What Prevents Development?
According to Modernisation Theorists, obstacles to development are internal to poorer countries. In other words, undeveloped countries are undeveloped because they have the wrong cultural and social systems and the wrong values and practices that prevent development from taking place.
Talcott Parsons (1964) was especially critical of the traditional values of underdeveloped countries – he believed that they were too attached to traditional customs, rituals, practices and institutions, which Parsons argued were the ‘enemy of progress’. He was especially critical of the extended kinship and tribal systems found in many traditional societies, which he believed hindered the geographical and social mobility that were essential if a country were to develop (as outlined in his Functional Fit theory).
Parsons argued that traditional values in Africa, Asia and Latin America acted as barriers to development which included –
Particularism – Where people are allocated into roles based on their affective or familial relationship to those already in positions power. For example, where a politician or head of a company gives their brother or someone from their village or ethnic group a job simply because they are close to them, rather than employing someone based on their individual talent.
Collectivism – This is where the individual is expected to put the group (the family or the village) before self-interest – this might mean that children are expected to leave school at a younger age in order to care for elderly parents or grandparents rather than staying in school and furthering their education.
Patriarchy – Patriarchal structures are much more entrenched in less developed countries, and so women are much less likely to gain positions of political or economic power, and remain in traditional, housewife roles. This means that half of the population is blocked from contributing to the political and economic development of the country.
Ascribed Status and Fatalism – Ascribed status is where your position in society is ascribed (or determined) at birth based on your caste, ethnic group or gender. Examples include the cast system in India, many slave systems, and this is also an aspect of extreme patriarchal societies. This can result in Fatalism – the feeling that there is nothing you can do to change your situation.
In contrast, Parsons believed that Western cultural values which promoted competition and economic growth: such values included the following:
Individualism – The opposite of collectivism This is where individuals put themselves first rather than the family or the village/ clan. This frees individuals up to leave families/ villages and use their talents to better themselves ( get an education/ set up businesses)
Universalism – This involves applying the same standards to everyone, and judging everyone according to the same standards This is the opposite of particularism, where people are judged differently based on their relationship to the person doing the judging.
Achieved Status and Meritocracy – Achieved status is where you achieve your success based on your own individual efforts. This is profoundly related to the ideal of meritocracy. If we live in a truly meritocratic society, then this means then the most talented and hardworking should rise to the top-jobs, and these should be the best people to ‘run the country’ and drive economic and social development.
Parsons believed that people in undeveloped countries needed to develop an ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ if economic growth was to be achieved, and this could only happen if less developed countries became more receptive to Western values, which promoted economic growth.
Rostow’s five stage model of development
Modernisation Theorists believed traditional societies needed Western assistance to develop. There were numerous debates about the most effective ways to help countries develop, but there was general consensus on the view that aid was a good thing and if Developing countries were injected with money and western expertise it would help to erode ‘backward’ cultural barriers and kick starts their economies.
The most well-known version of modernization theory is Walt Rostow’s 5 stages of economic growth. Rostow (1971) suggested that following initial investment, countries would then set off on an evolutionary process in which they would progress up 5 stages of a development ladder. This process should take 60 years. The idea is that with help from West, developing countries could develop a lot faster than we did.
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 population
Strengths of Modernisation Theory/ Examples of it (sort of) Working
ONE – Indonesia – partly followed Modernisation theory in the 1960’s by encouraging western companies to invest and by accepting loans from the World Bank. But, their President Suharto (Dictator) also maintained a brutal regime which a CIA report refers to as “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century,” comparable to those of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. However, the World Bank praised Suharto’s economic transformation as “a dynamic economic success” and called Indonesia “the model pupil of the global economy,” while Bill Clinton referred to Suharto as “our kind of guy.”
Two further examples of where western expertise has helped solved specific problems in a number of developing countries are the green revolution and the eradication of smallpox, but neither of these lead to ‘the high age of mass consumption’ as Rostow predicted
TWO – The Green Revolution: In the 1960s, Western Biotechnology helped treble food yields in Mexico and India.
THREE – The Eradication of Smallpox… In the early 1950s 50 million cases of smallpox occurred in the world each year, by the early 1970s smallpox had been eradicated because of vaccine donations by the USA and RUSSIA
Criticisms of Modernisation Theory
Firstly, there are no examples of countries that have followed a Modernisation Theory approach to development. No countries have followed Rostow’s “5 stages of growth” in their entirety. Remember, “Modernisation Theory” is a very old theory which was partly created with the intention of justifying the position of western capitalist countries, many of whom were colonial powers at the time, and discrediting Communism. This is why it is such a weak theory.
Secondly, Modernization Theory assumes that western civilisation is technically and morally superior to traditional societies. Implies that traditional values in the developing world have little value compared to those of the West. 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, poor health problems such as cancer and drug abuse.
Thirdly, Dependency Theorists argue that 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.
Fourth, Neo-Liberalism is critical of the extent to which Modernisation theory stresses the importance of foreign aid, but corruption (Kleptocracy) often prevents aid from getting to where it is supposed to be going. 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 powe
Fifth, Post-Development thinkers argue that the model is flawed for assuming 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 that have raised living standards: Such as Communist Cuba and The Theocracies of the Middle East
Sixthly, industrialisation may do more harm than good for many people – It may cause Social damage – Some development projects such as dams have led to local populations being removed forcibly from their home lands with little or no compensation being paid.
In the clip below, Vandana Shiva presents a useful alternative perspective on the Green Revolution, pointing out that many traditional villages were flooded and destroyed in the process:
Finally, there are ecological limits to growth. Many industrial modernisation projects such as mining and forestry have led to the destruction of environment.
Post-Script: Neo-Modernisation Theory?
Despite its failings Modernisation theory has been one of most influential theories in terms of impact on global affairs. The spirit of Modernisation theory resulted in the establishment of the United Nations, The World Bank and the IMF, global financial institutions through which developed countries continue to channel aid money to less developed countries to this day, although there is of course debate over whether aid is an effective means to development.
Furthermore, the ‘spirit of Modernisation theory may actually still be alive today, in the form of Jeffry Sachs. Sachs (2005) is one of the most influential development economists in the world, and he has been termed a ‘neo-modernisation theorist’.
Sachs, like Rostow, sees development as a ladder with its rungs representing progress towards economic and social well-being. Sachs argues that there are a billion people in the world who are too malnourished, diseased or young to lift a foot onto the ladder because they often lack certain types of capital which the west takes for granted – such as good health, education, knowledge and skills, or any kind of savings.
Sachs argues that these billion people are effectively trapped in a cycle of deprivation and require targeted aid injections from the west in order to develop. In the year 2000 Sachs even went as far as calculating how much money would be required to end poverty – it worked out at 0.7% of GNP of the 30 or so most developed countries over the next few decades.
Related Posts/ Sources:
Steve Basset has produced an excellent series of vodcasts introducing Modernization Theory and other theories of development:
I found this fascinating Infographic in a recent report by the Resolution Foundation – which shows how people in rich countries tend to be pessimistic about their children’s futures, while people in poor countries tend to be optimistic.
These are only indications of how people feel, and feelings don’t necessarily reflect the actual prospects for children having a better life, but they do capture something of the ‘public mood’ or maybe even the ‘collective conscience’ in these countries, or do they?
Three related questions you might like to think about are:
How valid are these data? Are people in France really THAT pessimistic? And are people in China really that optimistic?
If you believe these stats to be valid, then why the differences? (Are we witnessing the rise of the developing nations and the decline of the developed world?)
Are people in poor countries right to be optimistic, and are people in rich countries right to be Pessimistic>?
There are hundreds of economic, political and social indicators of development, ranging from ‘Hard’ economic indicators such as Gross National Income (and all its variations), to various poverty and economic inequality indicators, to the Sustainable Development Goals, which focus much more on social indicators of development such as education and health, all the way down to much more subjective development indicators such as happiness.
In this blog post I consider what the most useful indicators of development are for students of A level sociology, studying the excellent module in global development.
I’ve thus selected the indicators below to try and represent:
the most commonly used indicators collected by some of the major development institutions, both multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, as well as NGOS.
The indicators you need to know for the ‘indicators of development topic – most obviously GNP, the HDI and the MDGs.
Other indicators which are useful to know for different sub-topics within the global development course (health, education, gender, conflict, the environment etc…)
Taken together these indicators should provide enough breadth of measurements to gain a very good (for A level standards) insight into the level of development of a country, without resulting in information overload and mental meltdown…
Most of the above indicators below have been developed and are monitored by either the World Bank or the United Nations, but I’ve also included others, such as the Global Peace Index, which are collated by other agencies, so as to broaden out the data sou
The indicators I consider in more detail below are as follows.
Total nominal Gross Domestic Product
Gross National Income per capita (PPP)
The percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day
The percentage of people living below the poverty line within a country.
Nominal GNI is useful for giving you an idea of the ‘economic clout’ of a country compared to other countries. The real global power players (in terms of military expenditure) are all towards the top of this.
These figures, however, tell you very little about the quality of life in a country…. for that you need to divide the figure per head of population and factor in the cost of living in the country….
Gross National Income Per Capita (PPP)
Gross National Income Per Capita – is GNI divided by the population of a country, so it’s GNI per person.
(PPP) stands for Purchasing Power Parity – which alters the raw GNI per capita data to control for the different costs of living in a country, thus modifying the GNI figure in U.S. dollars to reflect what those dollars would actually buy given the different costs of living in different countries.
GNI per capita (PPP) gives you a general idea of what the general economic standard of living is like for the average person in a country, however, there are serious limitations with this indicator – the main one being that it does not tell you how much of that income actually stays in a country, or how income is distributed. Quality of life will thus be a lot better for some people, and a lot worse for others than these gross statistics indicate.
The Percentage of People Living on Less than $1.25 a day
There are still around 800 million people around the world living on less than $1.25 a day (PPP), the figures for some of these countries are below:
The Democratic Republic of Congo (88%)
Looking at absolute poverty statistics like this gives us a much fuller understanding of the lack of development in certain countries – in DRC, you can clearly see that poverty is endemic (absolute poverty is a significant problem in many Sub-Saharan African countries), and we can also see that absolute poverty is still a significant problem in India (mainly rural India) and while the 6% is quite low in China, this 6% represents 10s of millions of people, given the large overall population size.
Proportion of population living below the poverty line within a country
The UN sustainable development goals states that one of its aims (under goal 1) is to ‘reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions’. (Source – The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals)
The United Nations collects this data for countries will lower human development, but not for countries with high human development, and so here we are reliant on data from national governments or other agencies – and the problem here is that different countries measure their ‘poverty line’ in different ways, so this means making cross national comparisons are difficult. Some sources are below:
Selected Stats on the Proportion of People Living Below the Country’s own poverty line:
Most low income countries with high absolute poverty rates register percentages of between 30-60% living below their own poverty lines.
The USA has 15% of its population living below its poverty line (a household income of around $24000 per annum)
The UK also has around 15% of its population living below its poverty line, although its line is higher than the US – around $30000.
So how useful is this ‘relative measure of poverty’ as an indicator of a country’s level of development?
They give us far more insight than the GNI per capita PPP figures, because they tell us about income distribution. Can you really call a rich country developed if 15% of its population aren’t earning enough of an income to fully participate in that society?
We also need them as an addition to the absolute figures of poverty – absolute poverty doesn’t exist in the wealthiest countries, but clearly relative poverty does.
HOWEVER, the differences in how relative poverty figures are calculated does make it difficult to make comparisons.
Also, some figures in the UN’s data just don’t seem believable – some ex-communist countries (such as Kazakhstan) report that only 5% of the population live below the country’s poverty line – either than line is extremely low or there’s maybe a little bit of mis-reporting going on?
The Human Development Index
The Human Development Index is compiled annually by the United Nations and gives countries a score based on GNI per capita, number of years of actual and expected schooling and life expectancy, or in the words of the UN itself – the HDI is ‘A composite index measuring average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development—a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living.’
Percentage of children enrolled in secondary school
The Gender Inequality Index
The United Nations defines the Gender Inequality Index as ‘A composite measure reflecting inequality in achievement between women and men in three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market’.
More specifically, it gives countries a score between 0-1 (similar to the HDI) based on:
The Maternal mortality ratio: Number of deaths due to pregnancy-related causes per 100,000 live births.
The Adolescent birth rate: Number of births to women ages 15–19 per 1,000 women ages 15–19.
Proportion of seats held by women in the national parliament expressed as percentage of total seats.
The proportion of the female population compared to the male population with at least some secondary education
The comparative Labour force participation rate for men and women.
Selected countries according to their rankings for the Gender Inequality Index
1st – Slovenia
11th – Finland
39th – The United Kingdom
55th – The United States
56th – Saudi Arabia
97the – Bhutan
127 – Ghana
130th – India
The obvious strength of this is that we get to compare the life chances of women in a country to those of men. What’s (maybe) surprising is that while there does appear to be a general correlation between high GNI per capita (PPP), high human development and low gender inequality, the correlation is not perfect: as is evidenced by the USA being just one place above Saudi Arabia and Ghana being just a few places above India, despite these two pairs of countries having quite divergent levels of ‘human development’.
Composite Versus ‘Single Variable’ Indicators
Some of the indicators above are ‘composite’ indicators – which are formed when individual indicators are combined into a single index, giving countries a simplified score, such as the Human Development Index, the Gender Empowerment Index and the Global Peace Index; others are ‘single variable’ indicators – such as the Child Mortality Rate, which just measure one thing.
My reasons for considering both composite and single indicators of development are that while composite indicators crunch more data into a single figure, and thus allow you to make more ‘in-depth’ snap-shot comparisons, single numbers simply don’t give you a sense of the real difference between countries, so these are necessary to highlight the extent of the difference between countries in terms of economic, social and political development, or lack of it.
(1) of course, studying development comparatively may or may not, in itself be useful!
This year I’m using the DRC as a major case study in underdevelopment (it is last on the UN’s HDI rankings after all) – Here’s my (mainly cut and paste from Wikipedia) very brief history of the DRC – I’ll add in video links, general links, pictures and extracts from numerous books later…
The Stuff in italics below each heading are the ‘key historical reasons for underdevelopment’
It was quite nice, suggesting Western Nation States f***ed The Congo Up
[Pre-Colonialism, tribes in the region were doing pretty well for themselves – Organised into the Kingdom of Luba, according to Wikipedia – Each of these kingdoms became very wealthy due mainly to the region’s mineral wealth, especially in ores. The civilization began to develop and implement iron and copper technology, in addition to trading in ivory and other goods. The Luba established a strong commercial demand for their metal technologies and were able to institute a long-range commercial net (the business connections extended over 1,500 kilometres (930 miles), all the way to the Indian Ocean). By the 16th century, the kingdom had an established strong central government based on chieftainship.’
The African Congo Free State (1877–1908) – Colonialism, Brutalisation and Extraction
History of Colonialism
King Leopold II of Belgium formally acquired rights to the Congo territory at the Conference of Berlin in 1885 and made the land his private property and named it the Congo Free State.Leopold’s regime began various infrastructure projects, such as construction of the railway that ran from the coast to the capital of Leopoldville (now Kinshasa). It took years to complete. Nearly all such projects were aimed at increasing the capital which Leopold and his associates could extract from the colony, leading to exploitation of Africans.
Rubber was the main export from the Congo Free State, used to make tyres for the growing automobile industry, and the sale of rubber made a fortune for Leopold.
Leopold’s colonization of the Congo was incredibly brutal. Thousands of Congolese were forced to work on Leopold’s Rubber plantations, and the practice of cutting off the limbs of the natives as a means of enforcing rubber quotas was widespread. During the period of 1885–1908, millions of Congolese died as a consequence of exploitation and disease. In some areas the population declined dramatically; it has been estimated that sleeping sickness and smallpox killed nearly half the population in the areas surrounding the lower Congo River.
The actions of the Free State’s administration sparked international protests led by British reporter Edmund Dene Morel and British diplomat/Irish rebel Roger Casement, whose 1904 report on the Congo condemned the practice. Famous writers such as Mark Twainand Arthur Conan Doyle also protested.
The Belgian Congo (1908–1960) – Colonialism, Condescension and More Extraction
In 1908, the Belgian parliament took over the Free State from the king. From then on, as a Belgian colony, it was called the Belgian Congo and was under the rule of the elected Belgian government. The governing of the Congo improved significantly and considerable economic and social progress was achieved. The white colonial rulers had, however, generally a condescending, patronizing attitude toward the indigenous peoples, which led to bitter resentment from both sides. During World War II, the Congolese army achieved several victories against the Italians in North Africa.
Independence and Political crisis (1960–1965) – Turmoil and Transition
The Belgian Congo achieved independence on 30 June 1960 under the name ‘The Democratic Republic of Congo’. Just previous to this, in May a growing nationalist movement, led by Patrice Lumumba, had won the parliamentary elections. The party appointed Lumumba as Prime Minister. Shortly after independence, most of the 100,000 Europeans who had remained behind after independence fled the country, opening the way for Congolese to replace the European military and administrative elite.
On 5 September 1960, Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba from office. Lumumba declared Kasavubu’s action unconstitutional and a crisis between the two leaders developed. Lumumba had previously appointed Joseph Mobutu chief of staff of the new Congo army. Taking advantage of the leadership crisis between Kasavubu and Lumumba, Mobutu garnered enough support within the army to create mutiny. With financial support from the United States and Belgium, Mobutu paid his soldiers privately. Mobutu took power in 1965 and in 1971 changed the country’s name to the “Republic of Zaïre”.
Mobutu and Zaire (1965 – 1996) – Dictatorship (propped up by the United States), extreme corruption, yet more extraction and infrastructure deterioration
Corruption, Aid, The United States, Cold War
The new president had the support of the United States because of his staunch opposition to Communism. Western powers appeared to believe this would make him a roadblock to Communist schemes in Africa.
A one-party system was established, and Mobutu declared himself head of state. He periodically held elections in which he was the only candidate. Although relative peace and stability were achieved, Mobutu’s government was guilty of severe human rights violations, political repression, a cult of personality and corruption. By 1984, Mobutu was said to have $4 billion (USD), an amount close to the country’s national debt, deposited in a personal Swiss bank account. International aid, most often in the form of loans, enriched Mobutu while he allowed national infrastructure such as roads to deteriorate to as little as one-quarter of what had existed in 1960.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Mobutu was invited to visit the United States on several occasions, meeting with U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. In June 1989, Mobutu was the first African head of state invited for a state visit with newly elected President Bush. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, however, U.S. relations with Mobutu cooled, as he was no longer deemed necessary as a Cold War ally.
The first and second Congo Wars (1996 – 2003) – Rwanda’s Ethnic conflict heads west while neighbouring nations plough in and extract resources
End of the Cold War, Ethnic Conflict, Rwanda, Resource Curse
By 1996, following the Rwandan Civil War and genocide and the ascension of a Tutsi-led government, Rwandan Hutu militia forces (Interahamwe) had fled to eastern Zaire and began refugees camps as a basis for incursion against Rwanda. These Hutu militia forces soon allied with the Zairian armed forces to launch a campaign against Congolese ethnic Tutsis in eastern Zaire.
A coalition of Rwandan and Ugandan armies, led by Lawrence Kabila, then invaded Zaire to overthrow the government of Mobutu, launching the First Congo War. By May 1997, Kabila had made it to the capital Kinshasa, named himself president and changed the name of the country back to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mobutu was forced to flee the country.
However, a few months later, President Kabila asked foreign military forces to return back to their countries because he was concerned that the Rwandan military officers who were running his army were plotting a coup against him. Consequently, Rwandan troops in DRC retreated to Goma and launched a new Tutsi led rebel military movement (the RCD) to fight against their former ally, President Kabila, while Uganda instigated the creation of another rebel movement called the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), led by the Congolese warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba. The two rebel movements, along with Rwandan and Ugandan troops, started the Second Congo War by attacking the DRC army in 1998. Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia became involved militarily on the side of the government.
Kabila was assassinated in 2001 and was succeeded by his son Joseph Kabila, who organised multilateral peace talks which to the signing of a peace accord in which Kabila would share power with former rebels. By June 2003 all foreign armies except those of Rwanda had pulled out of Congo. On 30 July 2006 DRC held its first multi-party elections. Joseph Kabila took 45% of the votes and his opponent, Jean-Pierre Bemba took 20%. On 6 December 2006 Joseph Kabila was sworn in as President.
Contemporary Conflicts in the DRC (2003 – Present Day) – Numerous groups fighting over various things
Ethnic Conflict, Rwanda, learned violence.
There are a number of rebel groups still operating mostly in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It is widely suspected that Rwanda is funding some of these rebel groups. A lot of the recent conflicts seem to go back to the Hutu-Tutsi conflict from Rwanda.
The FDLR -The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda- Consist almost entirely ethnic Hutus who wish to regain power in Rwanda. The FDLR contains some of the ‘original Hutu genociders’ who carried out the genocide in Rwanda and currently have about 7000 troops still in operation in the DRC. Some of the leaders of the FDLR are facing trial for crimes against humanity in the ICCJ
The CNDP – In 2006, the Congolese military declared that it was stopping operations against the FDLR. This lead to some troops mutinying and the foundation of the CNDP, or The National Congress for the Defence of the People, mostly consisting of ethnic Tutsis, whose main aim continued to be the eradication of the Hutu FDLR. The CNDP consisted of approximately 8000 troops and was believed to be backed by Rwanda.
The M23 Rebels – In March 2009, The CNDP signed a peace treaty with the government, in which it agreed to become a political party and its soldiers integrated into the national army in exchange for the release of its imprisoned members. Its leader, Lawrence Nkunda was also arrested and is now facing trial at the United Nations Court for ‘Crimes against humanity’.
However (here we go again) in 2009 Bosco Ntaganda, and troops loyal to him mutinied from this new ‘integrated army’ and formed the rebel military March 23 Movement, claiming a violation of the treaty by the government. M23 claims that some CNDP troops have not received jobs in the military as promised by the government and also want some limited political reforms.
M23 is estimated to have around 1500 – 6000 troops and as recently as November 2012, M23 captured the city of Goma, with a population of over 1 million, and the provincial capital of the Kivu Province in Eastern DRC, with the aim of getting its political demands met.
Rwanda is widely suspected of funding this rebel group as well, although both Rwanda and M23 deny this.
Other Rebel Groups – In addition to the above there is on and off fighting amongst other rebel groups. For example, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army moved from their original bases in Uganda (where they have fought a 20-year rebellion) and South Sudan to DR Congo in 2005.
Given the correlation between Peacefulness and economic and social development, I’d say there’s a strong argument that the level of peacefulness in a country is one of the most valid indicators of that country’s level of development; it’s also important for the potential of other countries to develop further, given that violence in one country can so often retard development in other countries.
Unfortunately for America, it doesn’t do well on measures of peacefulness. According to the 2017 Global Peace Index (GPI), it ranks a dismal 114th out of 163 countries, down 8 places from the previous year, and bucking the general trend which is for more wealthier countries to be more peaceful (Scandinavia + Canada are towards the top!)
The Global Peace Index includes several indicators to establish its rankings, and so there are many reasons for America’s low peacefulness (and high violence) ranking – the high homicide rate being linked to the national addiction to guns, and neither does its high military and nuclear expenditure, or its involvement in drone-killings abroad.
One recent event, which won’t have been included in the 2017 GPI data, is America’s enhanced role in Saudi Arabia’s current war in Yemen – Following Donald Trump’s recent state visit to Saudi Arabia, The United States is set to become more complicit in this war. Saudi Arabia ranks 132nd on the GPI, Yemen 4th from bottom at 159th.
Amnesty International calls the conflict in Yemen the ‘forgotten war’ – it’s basically a conflict involving one group of Yemenis known as the Huthis who support the former Yemeni president, and a second group who, along with the Saudis, support the existing president. The conflict has been going on since 2015, with civilians caught in the middle.
Amnesty cites the following human toll of the conflict so far:
4 600 Civilians have been killed, 8000 injured
3 Million people have been displaced
18.8 million people currently rely on humanitarian assistance
According to Time, Donald Trump recently agreed $110 billion worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia:
‘The weapons sale was one of the largest in history, totalling close to $110 billion worth of tanks, artillery, radar systems, armoured personnel carriers, Blackhawk helicopters, ships, …Patriot missiles”
The $110 billion figure is almost certainly exaggerated, as it includes the renewal of some existing deals with are ongoing (so no new money changing hands), and some potential, yet to be agreed, future arms-deals, but whatever the exact figure there is sufficient evidence of closer war-links between America and Saudi Arabia:
According to Al-Jazeera, what we do know is that Trump is ramping up arms-sales to the Saudis:
‘Trump is green-lighting sales of precision-guided, air-to-ground missiles that Obama had withheld because of concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and civilian casualties. In addition, Trump is moving forward to replenish and expand the Saudi supply of battle tanks and armoured vehicles, replacing equipment damaged in the Yemen conflict. Separately, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon both announced major sales in connection with Trump’s trip but this seems more in the nature of a promise than a finished deal.”
Somewhat worryingly, is the rather blase attitude displayed to all this by the American politicians involved:
According to Time:
Policy advisor Jared Kushner high-fived National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster as he entered the room where they held talks with Saudi officials. Aide Gary Cohn told pool reporters the deals represented “a lot of money. Big dollars. Big dollars.”
According to Al Jazeera:
“The Saudis are in a war in Yemen and they need weapons. You want to win, you need weapons,” Senator John McCain, a Republican, told Al Jazeera. “We are in a war.”
More worringly still, according to the Ron Paul Liberty Report, the U.S. military is also directly involved in the Saudi – Yemen conflict through advising the Saudi’s on identifying and picking targets to bomb in Yemen and through fuelling Saudi war planes, (first few minutes in the clip below…)
Of course not everyone in America believes that the United States should be involved in the Saudi’s war against Yemen, so I’d hate to tar all Americans with the same violence-brush, but unfortunately for the rational peace lovers, the neoliberals in power are using the machinery of the America state (ironically for neoliberals) to escalate violence in the Middle East.
SO if we are to include peacefulness in our assessment of how developed a country is, then on the most recent evidence of the Saudi arms deal, we’d have to conclude that the United States has regressed even further than the Global Peace Index suggests.
The Global Peace Index uses 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators to measure the state of peace using three thematic domains:
the level of Societal Safety and Security;
the extent of Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict;
the degree of Militarisation.
The data is collated by the Institute for Economics and Peace – a think tank which develops metrics to analyse peace and to quantify its economic value. It does this by developing global and national indices of ‘peacefulness’, analysing country level risk, and calculating the economic cost of violence, and the positive benefits of peace.
Some of the findings from the most recent 2017 report include an analysis of the most significant ‘positive peace’ factors which result in increasing peacefulness, and the finding that decreasing peacefulness is correlated with increasing populism in Europe.
The Institute for Economics and Peace says its aim is to ‘create a paradigm shift in the way the world thinks about peace. We use data driven research to show that peace is a positive, tangible and achievable measure of human well-being and development.’
You can explore the Global Peace Index and download the full 2017 report for free on the Institute for Economics and Peace’s dedicated website – Vision of Humanity
Selected Key Findings of the 2017 Global Peace Index
Trends in peacefulness since 2016
the global level of peace has slightly improved this year by 0.28 per cent, with 93
countries improving, while 68 countries deteriorated.
Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008. It is joined at the top of the index by New Zealand, Portugal, Austria, and Denmark.
Syria remains the least peaceful country in the world, preceded by Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan, and Yemen.
The Ten Year Trend in Peacefulness
global peacefulness has deteriorated by 2.14 per cent since 2008, with 52 per cent of GPI countries recording a deterioration, while 48 per cent improved.
the domain that deteriorated the most over the ten-year period was Safety and Security, with 61 per cent of countries recording a deterioration.
the domain with the largest improvement was Militarisation where 60 per cent of countries became less militarised over the past decade.
Most of the detiororation in peacefulness is because of increasing terrorism and decreasing political stability in the MENA region; if this region were excluded from global peace indicators, the world would in fact be more peaceful!
The heightened media attention on conflict in the Middle East, refugee flows and terrorism in Europe has meant several positive trends have not been as widely covered. Two of the more positive trends from the last decade are decreases in the homicide rate and improvements in the Political Terror Scale which measures state sponsored violence and torture, where 2/3rds of countries improved.
The economic costs of violence
The economic impact of violence on the global economy in 2016 was $14.3 trillion in purchasing power parity (PPP),
This is equivalent to 12.6 per cent of the world’s economic activity (gross world product), or $1,953 for every person.
The economic impact of war was $1.04 trillion. Peacebuilding expenditure is estimated to be approximately $10 billion, or less than one per cent of the cost of war.
The impact of violence for the ten least peaceful countries was equivalent to 37 per cent of their GDP. This compares to only three per cent in the ten most peaceful.
NB – What’s above is just an overview – I strongly recommend you explore the data further at Vision of Humanity!
How Useful is the Global Peace Index in helping us to understand development?
On the plus side, the data seems to be non-partisan, in the sense that there doesn’t seem to be undue influence in the data selection process from developed countries – there is a heavy peace-score penalty which some of the most developed countries pay for high levels of military expenditure – most notably the United States.
Also, if we can trust the data and the number-crunching, then there is a clear correlation between sustained peacefulness in a country and that country’s level of development, and so monitoring levels of peacefulness and violence seems to be one of the most important goals in global development.
The Global Peace Index covers a lot of indicators – and the reports break them down to look at individual indicators, so you get a certain level of insight into the levels of peacefulness and violence.
I do like the focus on ‘positive peace’ and the fact that the report recognizes high levels of military expenditure as retarding investment in more positive aspects of development.
On the downside, I’m not convinced that all of the data is 100% valid – there has to be a lot of differences in the way data is recorded from country to country, especially in war-zones, so lots of missing conflict-deaths no doubt. This means making comparisons is difficult.
Also, I’m not sure they’ve included a broad enough range of indicators – the fact that Qatar creeps in at number 30 makes me suspicious, also – is violence against women included?
Also, I’m not clear about how the data is weighted – there’s lots of talk in the report about ‘multiplying factors’, and I don’t know enough about the maths behind the indices to evaluate how valid these calculations are.
Some useful links to good teaching resources for Globalisation and Global Development.
Good resources providing an overview of global trends and global inequalities:
Firstly, this 2016 video imagines the world as 100 people, and so illustrates what percentage of people live on less than $2 a day and so on (once you get through the ‘basic’ stuff on ethnicity/ religion etc…
A few stand-out facts are:
1% of the population own 50% of the world’s wealth
15% don’t have access to clean water
less than 50% have access to the internet
Secondly, Worldometers provides real time world statistics on population, the environment, food, health and media and society.
A few stand-out facts are…..
The total number of malnourished people in the world is decreasing!
The total number of people with no access to clean drinking water is also decreasing!
HOWEVER, we’re losing approximately 20 HA a minute to desertification and 10 HA a minute to deforestation, which could undermine both of the above in the future.
Good resources for researching individual countries
The United Nation’s Country Profiles are probably the most accessible place to start – each country’s page gives you basic development indicators which you can then click on to expand.
The CIA World Fact Book is a useful source for more qualitative information on a country by country by country basis, organised into various categories such as geography, population, economics, politics and so on…
Good Resources for tracking ‘Indicators of Development’