This article provides information about the dependency perspectives on development:
The debates among the liberal reformers Prebisch, the Marxists – Andre Gunder Frank, and the world-systems theorists – Wallerstein was vigorous and intellectually quite challenging. There are still points of serious disagreement among the various strains of dependency theorists and it is a mistake to think that there is only one unified theory of dependency. Nonetheless, there are some core propositions which seem to underlie the analyses of most dependency theorists.
Dependency can be defined as an explanation of the economic development of a state in terms of the external influences political, economic, and cultural on national development policies. Theotonio Dos Santos emphasises the historical dimension of the dependency relationships in his definition: It is a historical condition which shapes a certain structure of the world economy such that it favors some countries to the detriment of others and limits the development possibilities of the subordinate economics…a situation in which the economy of a certain group of countries is conditioned by the development and expansion of another economy, to which their own is subjected.
There are three common features to these definitions which most dependency theorists share:
i. First, dependency characterises the international system as comprised of two sets of states, variously described as dominant/dependent, center/periphery or metropolitan/satellite. The dominant states are the advanced industrial nations in the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The dependent states are those states of Latin America, Asia, and Africa which have low per capita GNPs and which rely heavily on the export of a single commodity, or a few commodities, for foreign exchange earnings.
ii. Second, both definitions have in common the assumption that external forces are of singular importance to the economic activities within the dependent states. These external forces include multinational corporations, international commodity markets, foreign assistance, communications, and any other means by which the advanced industrialised countries can represent their economic interests abroad.
iii. Third, all the definitions of dependency indicate that the relations between dominant and dependent states are dynamic because the interactions between the two sets of states tend to not only reinforce but also intensify the unequal patterns. Moreover, dependency is a very deep-seated historical process, rooted in the internationalisation of capitalism.
Latin America today is, and has been since the sixteenth century, a part of an international system dominated by the present developed nations. Under development in Latin America is the outcome of a particular series of relationships to the international system. In the 1960s international financial and trade systems were beginning to be more flexible, in which national governments seem to have less and less influence. These were the new conditions under which the Third world was trying to elevate its standards of living.
It is this which made people like Immanuel Wallerstein concludes that there are new activities in the capitalist world-economy which cannot be explained by old theories. This school originated in Fernand Braudel Centre for the study of Economics, at the state University of New York at Binghamton. Having originated in sociology it extended its impact to anthropology, history, political sciences. Wallerstein and his followers felt that there were wider forces in the world that impacted and influenced small and underdeveloped nations and the nation-state level of analysis is no longer useful to explain conditions in underdeveloped countries.
The factors that had greatest influence on small countries were new global systems of communications, the new world trade mechanisms, the international financial systems, and transfer of military links. These factors have created their own dynamic at the international level, and at the same time, these elements are interacting with internal aspects of each country. In short, dependency theory attempts to explain the present underdeveloped state of many nations in the world by examining the patterns of interactions among nations and by arguing that inequality among nations is an intrinsic part of those interactions.