Economic Development in Neo-Marxist Theory

  • Lorraine Culley


Much of the recent discussion of the question of ‘underdevelopment’ has been conducted by authors referring to a process not strictly of underdevelopment’ but of ‘dependency’. The so-called ‘dependency theorists’ include allegedly Marxist and non-Marxist economists and sociologists, among them Dos Santos, Cardoso, Sunkel and Furtado. The work of certain ‘neo-Marxist’ writers, most notably Paul Baran, Paul Sweezy and André Gunder Frank, has undoubtedly been very influential in these recent theoretical developments. ‘Dependency theory’ accepts certain ‘neo-Marxist’ conceptions of the nature of development and underdevelopment, in particular the conception of the interdependence of the capitalist world economy and the proposition that development and underdevelopment are partial, interdependent aspects of one global system.1 The criticism of the Baran/Frank conception of ‘underdevelopment’ is largely confined to its alleged ‘Eurocentricity’. It is argued that insufficient attention is paid to the effects of international interdependence on the internal structures of, for example, the Latin American economies. The dependency theorists are particularly concerned with the effects on the ‘class structure’ of these societies.2 These writers do not, however, offer a rigorous theoretical critique of the Baran/Frank thesis. This has serious effects for the work of those authors who claim to be working within Marxist theory. The failure adequately to conceptualise the conditions of the class struggle in ‘underdeveloped’ societies is conceived largely as an oversight on the part of Baran and Frank, rather than a theoretical consequence of their discourse. While it is generally accepted that the Baran/Frank thesis is a correct starting-point for a Marxist analysis of ‘economic development’, it is demonstrated below that this is not the case.


Sociological Theory Capitalist System Class Struggle Surplus Labour Marxist Theory 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1977

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  • Lorraine Culley

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