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Assess the View that Poor Countries Will Always Remain Poor (20)

An essay plan including Modernisation and Dependency Theory, Neoliberalism and World System’s Theory, Bottom Billion and Neo-Modernisation theory, as well as contemporary trends such as war and conflict and environmental decline and case studies such as India, China, Afghanistan and Haiti.

Introduction

The view in the question is most closely associated with Dependency Theory which argued that poor countries would remain poor due to their exploitation through colonialism and then neo-colonialism.

However, the historical record of the last 200 years of industrial development clearly shows that the above view is overstated: most poor countries, including many ex-colonies, have got wealthier, and have done so through a number of different strategies. However, it is also true that despite enormous increases in wealth globally, many countries remain trapped in poverty.

In order to address the question above I will do the following:

Firstly I will review the various theories of development which have pointed to a number of different causes of and related solutions to poverty in order to demonstrate the overwhelming historical evidence against the view in the question.

Secondly, I will discuss how emergent global problems such as the spread of war, conflict and terrorism, increasing consumption and environmental decline could mean that those countries which today are still poor today might well remain poor in the future.

Numerous theories of development have pointed to a number of causal factors related to poverty – according to these theories if certain things happen then poor countries are likely to remain poor…

  • Modernisation Theory – Poor countries remain poor because of their traditional values
  • Dependency Theory – Poor countries remain poor because of the legacy of colonialism and neocolonialism
  • World Systems Theory – Poor countries remain poor because of trade rules established by the WTO which works on behalf of rich countries and TNCs.
  • Neoliberalism – Poor countries remain poor because of too much Official
  • Development Aid and Corrupt governments
  • People Centered Development – The question of whether poor countries are economically poor is irrelevant – there are many different paths to development and many different ways of measuring development
  • Paul Collier’s Bottom Billion Theory – Poor countries remain poor because of Four traps – Poor governance, ethnic conflict, the resource curse and being landlocked with poor neighbours
  • Hans Rosling and Jeffry Sachs – Poor countries remain poor because of the poverty trap and lack of Official Development aid from the west

Conversely, if certain things happen, then poor countries will not necessarily remain poor. Countries will develop if….

  • (MT) Poor countries need to learn from the West, industrialise and progress through the five stages of growth
  • (DT) Poor countries need to break free from Western Capitalism and isolate themselves through socialist models of development
  • (WST) They position themselves as semi-periphery countries, manufacturing goods rather than exporting raw materials – e.g. The Philippines/India/ China
  • (NL) Poor countries need to open up their markets through deregulation, privatisation and low taxation – e.g. Chile
  • (PCD) There are diverse paths to development but all of them should respect the principles of equality, democracy and sustainability.
  • (BB) We need a Marshal Aid plan for the Bottom Billion, countries need to sort out poor governance and we need fairer trade rules
  • (Hans and Jeff) We still need massive aid injections, which need to be targeted initially on improving health, but also on women’s rights and education.

Case studies and global trends information which suggests poor countries will remain poor 

  • War and Conflict/ Terrorism
  • Higher rates of consumption as countries develop
  • Environmental challenges and the lack of global agreements on climate change
    Increase Military Expenditure
  • The increasing power of TNCs and lack of fair trade rules
  • The lack of commitment to giving official development aid by rich nations
  • Haiti
  • Iraq/ Syria
  • Afghanistan
  • Liberia

Case studies and global trends information which suggests poor countries will continue to develop

  • The lowering of birth rates
  • The increasing number of children in school
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The UN’s sustainable development goals
  • Continued Economic growth globally
  • China
  • India
  • Brazil
  • Nigeria

Conclusion and Analytical Points – Using the evidence above BUILD a conclusion

From the above evidence it is clear that not all countries have remained poor….

The most applicable theory which helps us explain underdevelopment today is ____________________ and following this theory poor countries are most likely to develop if….

However, some of the challenges in the world today suggest that some underdeveloped countries might remain poor in the future. For example…

On balance I feel that that while all countries will probably not remain poor (delete as appropriate) (1) the majority of poor countries will remain poor and only a few will develop / (2)  most developing countries will develop but a few are likely to remain poor/  (3) add in an alternative closing sentence of your choice…

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

 

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World Systems Theory

Immanuel Wallerstein
Immanuel Wallerstein

A summary of Wallerstein’s World Systems Theory including the key ideas of Core, Semi-Periphery and Periphery countries, relevant to A Level Sociology Global Development Module. NB This is very much a summary designed to get an 18 year old through an exam, so may not suit higher level students.  

World systems theory is a response to the criticisms of Dependency Theory (and for the purposes of the exam can still be treated as part of Dependency Theory). World Systems Theory was developed by Immanuel Wallerstein (1979).

Wallerstein accepts the fact ex-colonies are not doomed to be forever trapped in a state of dependency; it is possible for them to climb the economic ladder of development, as many of them have done. However, he also believes that the global capitalism system still requires some countries, or at least regions within countries to be poor so they can be exploited by the wealthy at the top. Wallerstein’s theory has four underlying principles:

  1. One must look at the world system as a whole, rather than just at individual countries. Dependency Theory tended to argue that countries are poor because they used to be exploited by other countries. However focusing on countries (or governments/ nation states) is the wrong level of analysis – government today have declined in power, whereas Corporations are more powerful than ever. Global Corporations, and global capital, transcend national boundaries, and nation states (even wealthy ones) are relatively powerless to control them, thus in order to understand why countries are rich or poor, we should be looking at global economic institutions and corporations rather than countries. Global Economic Institutions form what Wallerstein calls a Modern World System, and all countries, rich and poor alike are caught up in it.

  1. Wallerstein believes that the MWS is characterised by an international division of labour consisting of a structured set of relations between three types of capitalist zone:

Core-Periphery and Semi Periphery Countries
Core-Periphery and Semi Periphery Countries
  • The core, or developed countries control world wages and monopolise the production of manufactured goods.

  • The semi-peripheral zone includes countries like South Africa or Brazil which resemble the core in terms of their urban centres but also have areas of rural poverty which resemble the peripheral countries. The core contracts work out to these countries.

  • Finally, there are the peripheral countries at the bottom, mainly in Africa, which provide the raw materials such as cash crops to the core and semi periphery. These are also the emerging markets in which the core attempts to market their manufactured goods.

NB ‘countries’ are used to illustrate the three different zones above, but technically you could have all three zones within one country – China and India contain regions which fit the descriptors for each of the three zones.

  1. Countries can be upwardly or downwardly mobile in the world system. This is one of the key differences between World System’s Theory and Frank’s Dependency Theory. Many countries, such as the BRIC nations have moved up from being peripheral countries to semi-peripheral countries. However, most countries do not move up and stay peripheral, and the ex-colonial powers (the wealthy European countries) are very unlikely to slip down the global order.

  1. The Modern World System is dynamic – core countries are constantly evolving new ways of extracting profit from poorer countries and regions. Three examples of new ways of extracting profit from poor countries include:

  • Unfair Trade Rules (we come back to this in the next topic) – 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

  • Western Corporations sometimes 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.

  • Land Grabs – These are currently happening all over Africa – Where a western government or company buys up thousands of hectares of land in Africa with the intention of planting it with food or biofule crops for export back to western markets. In such cases the western companies take advantage of the cheap land and gain much more than the African nations selling the land in the long term. In some case studies of land grabs thousands of indigenous peoples are displaced.

Evaluating World Systems Theory


  1. Wallerstein can also be criticised in the same way Dependency Theorists can be criticised – there are more causes of underdevelopment than just Capitalism – Such as cultural factors, corruption and ethnic conflict.Wallerstein puts too much emphasis of economics and the dominance of Capitalism – There are other ways people can be exploited and oppressed – such as tyrannical religious regimes for example. Also, there are some areas are still not included in the World System – some tribal peoples in South America and Bhutan for example remain relatively unaffected by global capitalism.

  1. Finally, Wallerstein’s concepts of Core, Semi-Periphery and Periphery are vague and this means his theory is difficult to test in practise.