Competing theories of economic development

July 11, 2016
Time and time again we hear

A1 Patrick J. McGowan is an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California. The senior author gratefully acknowledges the comments on an earlier draft by the faculty members of the USC Colloquium on Interdependence/Dependence and by Professors Ann Seidman, Monique Garrity, Timothy Shaw, Christopher Chase-Dunn, Sanjaya Lall, and James Caporaso.

a2 Dale L. Smith, B.A. (USC), is a Political Science graduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The senior author gratefully acknowledges the comments on an earlier draft by the faculty members of the USC Colloquium on Interdependence/Dependence and by Professors Ann Seidman, Monique Garrity, Timothy Shaw, Christopher Chase-Dunn, Sanjaya Lall, and James Caporaso.

Current attempts to understand and remedy the underdevelopment and peripheral international roles of Third World states derive from three competing paradigms: conventional social science, Marxism, and dependency theory. Each paradigm claims to explain past history and to make relevant policy recommendations for Third World leaders. Yet, none of these approaches has so far been formulated as complex, well specified, causal models. One can build theory relevant to data by specifying competing three-variable models relating economic dependency to economic performance and development potential. An empirical evaluation can then be made of the dependency theory proposition that economic dependency inhibits positive economic performance (growth and development). Partial correlation and regression analyses of economic data from thirty tropical African states in the middle and late 1960s provide little support for two dependency-based models and evidence in favor of conventional and Marxist models. These findings have implications for theory, further research, and policy.

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