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Journal Article

The Underdevelopment of Development Literature: The Case of Dependency Theory

Tony Smith
World Politics
Vol. 31, No. 2 (Jan., 1979), pp. 247-288
DOI: 10.2307/2009944
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2009944
Page Count: 42
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The Underdevelopment of Development Literature: The Case of Dependency Theory
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Abstract

As a vehicle for the growing association of southern nationalists and Marxists, dependency theory is an important part of the history of our times, something much more than a school of academic writing. Whatever the varieties of analysis existing within this school (and there are many), a major historiographic shortcoming is common to most of its literature: having grasped the Hegelian insight that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, dependencistas exaggerate the point, making the mistake of refusing any autonomy, any specificity to the parts (southern countries) independently of their membership in the whole (the imperialist system established by the North). A better approach to the study of the place of the South in the international system is to emphasize the variety of state structures present there with their different abilities to mobilize forces internally and translate this into international rank. Southern advances are more substantial than many realize; the essay concludes that southerners should pay more attention to the real room for initiative and maneuver they have, but which dependency theory systematically overlooks. Most of the illustrative examples concern India, the Ottoman Empire, and Latin America before World War I.

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