take-off point

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take-off point An idea derived from the American economic historian Walt W. Rostow's Stages of Economic Growth (1953). Rostow postulated five such stages: traditional society; preconditions for take-off; take-off to maturity; drive to maturity; and maturity. In this way he claimed to identify a recognizable stage in a country's history, lasting perhaps 20–30 years, during which the conditions required for sustained and fairly rapid economic growth are consolidated, and beyond which growth is more or less assured. The theory assumes that levels of capital investment are crucial to initiating economic growth. Rostow applied this schema to the problems of the then developing countries; and (indirectly) influenced and justified American foreign and overseas-aid policies towards the Third World.

Although the concept of a take-off to self-sustaining economic growth has been influential, Rostow's argument was subsequently the object of a sustained critique by dependency theorists in sociology, most notably in a famous and much-reproduced article by Andre Gunder Frank (‘Sociology of Development and Underdevelopment of Sociology’, 1967)
which castigates Rostow (among others) for ignoring the history of imperialism and neo-colonialism. The theory is now widely discredited but the idea of a take-off point remains part of the language of economic development.