Dependency Theory and the Study of Politics
Our chief concern in this chapter is with the third major critique of the political modernisation approach, that which arises out of dependency theory. We shall see that the primary focus of dependency theory is the international economic order. It holds that no society can be understood in isolation from this order and in fact the condition of underdevelopment is precisely the result of the incorporation of Third World economies into the world capitalist system which is dominated by the developed North. Accordingly the principal weakness of the modernisation approach from a dependency perspective is its total neglect of the economic dimension and its practice of explaining social and political change in the Third World entirely in terms of factors which are internal to the countries in question. In examining dependency theory we make no claim to a comprehensive survey of the wide range of dependency theories that emerged from the late 1960s (see O’Brien, 1975; Hoogvelt, 1982; Larrain, 1989). We shall start by reviewing the earlier writings of one of the most prominent dependency theorists, André Gunder Frank, their implications for the study of politics and certain critical reactions to these writings. We shall then look at briefly at other writers in the dependency school and derivatives of it before making an assessment of the approach from the point of view of our interest in political change.
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