Dependency theory

From Academic Kids

Dependency theory is the body of theories by various intellectuals, both from the Third World and the First World, that propound a worldview which suggests that the wealthy nations of the world need a peripheral group of poorer states to remain wealthy.

These poor nations provide natural resources, cheap labour, a destination for obsolete technology, and markets to the wealthy nations, without which they could not have the standard of living they enjoy. First world nations actively, but not necessarily consciously, perpetuate a state of dependency through various policies and initiatives. This state of dependency is multifaceted, involving economics, media control, politics, banking and finance, education, sport and all aspects of human resource development. Any attempt by the dependent nations to resist the influences of dependency will result in economic sanctions and/or military invasion and control. This is very rare, however, and dependency is enforced far more by the wealthy nations setting the rules of international trade and commerce.

Dependency theory first emerged in the 1950s, advocated by Raul Prebisch whose research found that the wealth of poor nations tended to decrease when the wealth of rich nations increased. The theory quickly divided into diverse schools. Some, most notably Andre Gunder Frank, adapted it to Marxism. "Standard" dependency theory differs sharply from Marxism, however, arguing against internationalism and any hope of progress in less developed nations towards industrialization and a liberating revolution. Former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso wrote extensively on dependency theory while in political exile.

Dependency theory became popular in the 1960s and 1970s as a criticism of standard development theory that seemed to be failing due to the continued widespread poverty of large parts of the world. With the seeming growth of the East Asian economies and India in the last few years, however, the theory has fallen somewhat out of favour. It disagrees sharply with current economic orthodoxy, but it is far more accepted in other disciplines such as history and anthropology.

The system of dependency was said to be created with the industrial revolution and the expansion of European empires around the world due to their superior power and wealth. Some argue that before this expansion, the exploitation was internal, with the major economic centres dominating the rest of the country (for example southeast England dominating the British Isles, or the Northeast United States dominating the south and east). Establishing global trade patterns in the nineteenth century allowed this system to spread to a global level. That had the benefit of further isolating the wealthy from both the dangers of peasant revolts and rebellions by the poor. Rather than turn on their oppressors as in the American Civil War or in communist revolutions, the poor could no longer reach the wealthy and thus the less developed nations became engulfed in regular civil wars. Once the superiority of rich nations was established, it could not be shaken off. This control ensures that all profits in less developed countries are taken by the better developed nations, preventing reinvestment and thus growth.

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