The concepts, development and underdevelopment, have only been widely used in their present sense since the end of the Second World War. For most of modern history the economic and social divisions of the world were understood as expressions of natural differences in race and climate. Differences in income were treated in much the same way as differences, say, in rainfall, and as late as 1930 a senior British administrator could blandly comment that average per capita income of £30 in Ghana compared not unfavourably with £80 in Britain.1 In the colonial mind the world was divided into civilised men and natives and the gulf that divided them was considered unbridgeable — at least in the foreseeable future. Attitudes have now changed, and the view of the world embodied in the concepts of development and underdevelopment no longer holds the division to be permanent and fixed. Underdevelopment implies development in a way that barbarism never implied civilisation. The differences between an underdeveloped country and a developed one are of degree rather than kind; and the very use of these terms suggests that they are differences that can and should be overcome. It is, to say the least, a more positive outlook.


Capita Income Underdeveloped Country Penguin Book Monthly Review Marxist Theory 
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  1. 1.
    A. W. Cardinal, The Gold Court, 1931 (Accra; Government Printer, 1931).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The term original or traditional underdevelopment was coined by Gunder Frank to characterise orthodox development theory which he criticised so severely. See A. G. Frank, Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America (New York and London; Monthly Review Press, 1967), p. 3. His criticisms, although never satisfactorily refuted, have not prevented the authors of a recent textbook from asserting that ‘underdevelopment… has been the normal state of all human societies apart from the few which, in the last two centuries, have applied a scientific technology to production and warfare’.Google Scholar
  3. Joan Robinson and Joan Eatwell, An Introduction to Modern Economics (London; McGraw-Hill, 1973), p. 323.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    W. W. Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth (London; Cambridge University Press, 1960).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Alfred Marshall, one of the founders of neo-classical economics, concludes the second paragraph of his major work with an eloquent statement on the importance of the social aspect of production. ‘For the business by which a person earns his livelihood generally fills his thoughts during by far the greater part of those hours in which his mind is at its best; during these hours his character is being formed by the way in which he uses his faculties in his work, by the thoughts and feelings which it suggests, and by his relations to his associates in work, his employers or his employees’. But straight away he adds: ‘the influence exerted on a person’s character by the amount of his income is hardly less, if it is less, than that exerted by the way in which it is earned’, and this is the line he pursues with few deviations through the next 700 pages. Alfred Marshall, Principles of Economics, 8th ed. (London; Macmillan, 1920), p. 1.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    The most swingeing critique to date is surely that of A. G. Frank, Sociology of Development (London; Pluto Press, 1971).Google Scholar
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    As early as 1922, the advance guards of the capitalist class were looking to the future. ‘When the natives of Africa begin raising their own cotton and the natives of Russia begin making their own farming implements and the natives of China begin making their own wants, it will make a difference, to be sure, but does any thoughtful man imagine that the world can continue on the present basis of a few nations supplying the needs of the world? We must think in terms of what the world will be when civilisation (i.e. industrial capitalism) becomes general, when all peoples have learned to help themselves’. Henry Ford, My Life and Work (London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1922), p. 243.Google Scholar
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    Thus Keith Griffin, for example, has launched a devastating empirical attack against orthodox development economics without really challenging its theoretical premises. See Keith Griffin, Underdevelopment in Spanish America (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1969), especially the introduction.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Many of the important contributions in this field are to be found in four collections of essays: The Economics of Underdevelopment, ed. A. N. Agarwala and S. P. Singh (London: Oxford University Press, 1958);Google Scholar
  10. Imperialism and Underdevelopment, a reader, ed. Robert I. Rhodes (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1970);Google Scholar
  11. ed. Roger Owen and Bob Sutcliffe. Studies in the Theory of Imperialism (London: Longman, 1972);Google Scholar
  12. Underdevelopment and Development; ed. Henry Bernstein, (London: Penguin Books, 1973).Google Scholar
  13. See also Paul A. Baran, The Political Economy of Growth, Monthly Review 1957, (London: Penguin Books, 1973);Google Scholar
  14. also Celso Furtado, Development and Underdevelopment (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1964);Google Scholar
  15. H. Myint, The Economics of Developing Countries (London: Hutchinson University Library, 1964);Google Scholar
  16. F. A. Clairmonte, Economic Liberalism and Underdevelopment (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1960). The uniting theme of these works is their effort to explain the process of underdevelopment in terms of the dependence of underdeveloped countries upon developed countries. Gunder Frank has stated this theme in the most general and radical terms: ‘As a photograph of the world taken at a point in time, this model consists of a world metropolis (today the United States) and its governing class, and its national and international satellites and their leaders — national satellites like the Southern States of the United States, and international satellites like Sao Paulo. Since Sao Paulo is a national metropolis in its own right, the model consists further of its satellites; the provincial metropolises, like Recife or Belo Horizonte, and their regional and local satellites in turn. That is, taking a photograph of a slice of the world we get a whole chain of metropolises and satellites which runs from the world metropolis down to the hacienda or rural merchant who are satellites of the local commercial metropolitan centre but who in turn have peasants as their satellites. If we take a photograph of the world as a whole, we get a whole series of such constellations of metropolises and satellites. The form of this metropolis-satellite relationship changes historically’. See Frank, Capitalism and Underdevelopment, pp. 146–7.Google Scholar
  17. 12.
    Marx and Engels, ‘The Communist Manifesto’, in Karl Marx, The Revolutions of 1848, edited and introduced by David Fernbach (London: Penguin Books in association with New Left Review, 1973), p. 71.Google Scholar
  18. 13.
    Marx, ‘The Future Results of British Rule in India’, in Karl Marx, Surveys from Exile, edited and introduced by David Fernbach (London, Penguin Books in association with New Left Review, 1973), pp. 323–4.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Geoffrey Kay 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geoffrey Kay
    • 1
  1. 1.The City UniversityLondonUK

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