Development in Sociology
Development in Sociology
Development was a post–World War II concept used to describe and explain economic and social change throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, and southeastern Europe. President Harry Truman (1884–1972) launched “the era of development” in 1949 when he committed the United States to making scientific and industrial advances available to underdeveloped areas. Four major theoretical and policy perspectives regarding development have been proposed: modernity (roughly 1940s–1950s), dependency (1960s–1970s), world systems (1980s–2000s), and market reform (1980s–2000s). Institutional, feminist, and capability perspectives also have informed development discourse. In various contexts, development has signified economic growth, income disparity, or class conflict within and between nation-states and regions of the world, and it has incorporated economic, political, and social change as well as enhanced individual freedom.
Modernity theorists focused on economic growth accompanied by political stability, not on social transformation itself. They assessed economic development primarily by gross domestic product, per capita income, or extent of poverty. Political stability implied preferable but not exclusive emphasis on the development of democratic institutions. Informing the modernity school were classical evolutionary theorists, including Auguste Comte (1798–1857), Émile Durkheim (1859–1917), Herbert Spencer (1820–1903), and Ferdinand Tönnies (1855–1936), and functionalist theorists such as Talcott Parsons (1902–1979) and Edward Shils (1911–1995).
The modernity school included economists, such as Walt W. Rostow, who stressed the importance of speeding up productive investments; political scientists, including Samuel Eisenstadt and Gabriel Almond, who highlighted the need to enhance the capacity of political systems; and sociologists, such as Marion Levy and Neil Smelser, who focused on changes in Parsons’s pattern variables (a way of characterizing interactions between people) and social differentiation. Reflecting evolutionary theory, modernization was viewed as a phased process, exemplified by Rostow in The Stages of Economic Growth (1960), and as a lengthy homogenizing process, tending toward irreversible and progressive convergence among societies over long periods of time. Some have argued that modern societies had better capacity to handle national identity, legitimacy, participation, and distribution than those with traditional political systems. Reflecting functionalist theory, modernity was also treated as a systematic and pervasive process.
Early modernization theorists such as James Coleman, Rostow, and Parsons constructed ahistorical abstract typologies, viewed tradition as an obstacle to development, and neglected external factors and conflict as sources of change. In the 1980s modernity theorists such as Siu-Lun Wong, Winston Davis, and Samuel Huntington treated tradition as an additive factor of development, conducted case studies, used historical analyses, posited multidirectional paths of development, and identified external factors and conflict as sources of development.
Dependency theory arose in Latin America in the early 1960s, in part due to the economic stagnation associated with the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America’s policy of import substitution (producing food and raw materials for industrialized centers and, in return, receiving processed goods from these centers). Classical dependency theorists, such as Andre Gunder Frank (1929–2005), Theotonio Dos Santos (b. 1936), and Samir Amin (b. 1931), posited the bipolar theoretical construct of core (industrialized nations) versus periphery (underdeveloped nations) as an alternative to the modernists’ modernity versus tradition. The historical heritage of colonialism and the perpetuation of an unequal division of international labor precluded the development of the periphery. The flow of economic surplus to European and North American developed countries kept countries in the Third World underdeveloped.
New dependency theorists and researchers of the 1970s and 1980s, such as Fernando H. Cardoso, Thomas B. Gold, Guillermo O’Donnell, and Peter Evans, viewed the nature of dependency in sociopolitical terms and as coexisting with development, rather than as mutually exclusive of it—that is, leading only to underdevelop-ment. They focused on historical-structural aspects of dependency, emphasizing internal aspects, class conflict, and the role of the state.
World-systems theorists, such as Andre Gunder Frank, Christopher Chase-Dunn, and Immanuel Wallerstein, made the unit of analysis the world system or, more generally, the “historical social system.” They used historical explanations from the viewpoint of the world system— the functions and interactions of all societies—and examined large-scale changes over long periods of time. As the world system expanded or contracted in its totality, that is, in terms of overall economic growth, regions and countries changed at different rates and in different directions. To account for uneven development, Wallerstein characterized capitalist world economy as exhibiting a trimodal structure of core, semi-periphery, and periphery. The addition of the semi-periphery component enabled the examination of upward mobility (a peripheral region or country moving into the semi-periphery or a semi-peripheral region or country moving into the core) as well as downward mobility (a core region or country moving into the semi-periphery or a semi-peripheral regional or country moving into the periphery).
Alejandro Portes (1997) contends that postulating a single worldwide unit of analysis and the long-term view are major flaws of the world-systems theory. This is because most development problems, dilemmas, and decisions occur in the intermediary level of nations and communities seeking to cope with constraints in their immediate, particular situations. As a result, world-systems theorists remain outside policy debates, and their influence with sociology has been mitigated somewhat, although as So (1990) and Peet (1999) note, greater attention to microregions has much promise theoretically and practically.
According to Portes (1997), market reform consists of seven basic steps:
- unilateral opening to foreign trade;
- extensive privatization of state enterprises;
- deregulation of goods, services, and labor markets;
- liberalization of the capital market with extensive privatization of pension funds;
- fiscal adjustment based on a sharp reduction in public outlays;
- downscaling state-supported social programs; and
- an end to industrial policies and a concentration on macroeconomic management or monetary policy.
According to this model, development means success in the marketplace, with little or no attention paid to the distributive effects of aggregate economic gains either between or within countries.
Access to and integration in worldwide markets, however, is assessed by criteria that go well beyond the economic sphere. For example, the A.T. Kearney Foreign Policy globalization index, which measures the impact of globalization in sixty-two countries, comprises four dimensions of nation-state development:
- economic integration (trade and foreign direct investment);
- personal contact (telephone, travel, remittances, and personal transfers);
- technological connectivity (Internet users, Internet hosts, secure servers); and
- political engagement (international organizations, UN peacekeeping, treaties, and government transfers).
Institutional theorists, such as Nicole Woolsey Biggart and Mauro F. Guillén, propose that “development depends on successfully linking a country’s historical patterns of social organization with opportunities made available by global markets” (Biggart and Guillén 1999, p. 723). In the World Development Report 2002: Building Institutions for Markets, published in 2001, the World Bank acknowledges the importance of institutions’ mainstream approaches to development policy. The framework of Andrew Dorward et al. (2005) incorporates bottom-up, nonmarket organizations such as microfinance groups and community-property resource-management groups. Institutional change is explained in terms of the responses of powerful groups to changes in relative prices, transaction costs, and technologies. In addition to a government’s regulatory capacity, much depends on how such actors perceive possible opportunities and threats posed to their interests by alternative paths of institutional change or stagnation and their political effectiveness in influencing the paths and pace of institutional change. Change can therefore be anti-development or pro-development, with much variation within and across nations and regions throughout the world.
The approach of Dorward et al. is consistent with that of Portes (1997), who argues for a sustained systematic analysis of differing outcomes. Specifically, the analysis should require a conceptual apparatus that goes beyond the assumptions of rational self-interest and unrestricted pursuit of gain that underlie neoliberal adjustment policies. The conceptual apparatus of economic sociology, which emphasizes the embeddedness of economic action in social structures, including political and demographic factors and the roles of class and networks in guiding collective strategies, is most suited for this task.
Women in development (WID) theorists (1970s–1990s) accepted prevailing modernity theory, stressing development as a linear process of economic growth. Confined to the noneconomic domestic sphere of society, women in developing nations had been left out of the development process, according to the WID theorists. Drawing from the dependency school, women and development (WAD) theorists (1980s–1990s) argued that women have always been part of the development process and that it was this link to modernization that had impoverished them. Women were used as cheap labor for multinational corporations in export-processing zones. Gender and development (GAD) theorists (1990s) rejected the sexual division of labor as the main ordering principle of social hierarchy. Instead, race, gender, and class mattered. Unlike WID and WAD theorists, GAD theorists (1990s–2000s) treated the state as an important actor promoting women’s emancipation.
Women, environment, and development (WED) theorists (1970s) made sustainable development a central issue: They linked ideas of equity between generations, the maintenance of a balance between environmental and economic needs to conserve nonrenewable resources, and the reduction of industrialization’s waste and pollution. Postmodernism and development (PAD) theorists (1980s–2000s) did not reject theories of economic development per se, but rather favored an approach to development that accepted difference, incorporated power discourse, and fostered consultative dialogue to empower women to articulate their own needs and agenda.
In Development as Freedom (1999), Amartya Sen conceptualizes development as a process of expanding freedoms that people enjoy. People’s capabilities underlie valuable goals of development of which measures such as gross domestic product, per capita income, industrialization, and technological advances are only indirect indicators. The notion of capabilities suggests that quality-of-life conditions must enhance the substantive freedoms that people enjoy if they are to lead the kinds of lives they have reason to value.
In Women and Human Development (2000), Martha C. Nussbaum shows how the combination of gender inequality and poverty clarifies the need for attention to capabilities. Questions about how satisfied people are with their lives or about the resources they have at hand are less important than what they are actually able to do and to be. Capabilities include being able to have good health, including reproductive health; being able to form a conception of what is good and engage in critical reflection about planning one’s life; being able to work; exercising practical reason; and entering into meaningful relationships of mutual recognition with other workers. A foremost goal of the capabilities approach is to maximize individual choice. Individuals should not be denied choice by cultures, religions, or families of which they are members, although these institutions might well provide the conditions under which individuals flourish. No institution, however, is sacred, and it is the responsibility of governments to protect individuals from any community that prohibits them from developing and exercising the basic human capacities.
SEE ALSO Almond, Gabriel A.; Amin, Samir; Comte, Auguste; Decolonization; Dependency Theory; Developing Countries; Development and Ethnic Diversity; Development Economics; Durkheim, Émile; Feminism; Frank, Andre Gunder; Gender and Development; Globalization, Social and Economic Aspects of; Huntington, Samuel P.; Inequality, Gender; Institutionalism; Liberalization, Trade; Modernization; Neocolonialism; Neoimperialism; Parsons, Talcott; Postcolonialism; Sen, Amartya Kumar; Spencer, Herbert; Stages of Economic Growth; Wallerstein, Immanuel; World-System
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Richard K. Caputo