Development Thinking

Development Thinking




Development is a society activity that has been seen for some period whereby social beings are characterized as being ever-present, and carrying out non-stop activity whose aim was to change their well-being from time to time. The survival, growth development and evolution for different human population, vary on the degree of result, objectives, energy and intensity of different institutions. As such, the term “civilization” suited the transitive sense of the process of the development until the end of the First World War. Consequently, after the introduction the currency, the metamorphosis of the western myth conceptualized into “modernization”, with a seemingly relative concept of “liberalization”. As a result, development kicked off and paved way not only for economic production, but also, intercepted political systems, material infrastructure and people’s relationships with each other. Different scholars postulated a number of western theories of development to explain the concept of the historic stages of social, economic, cultural and political evolution in the human society. The theories originated from disciplines of social sciences, and they included modernization theory, structuralism, basic-need theory and neo-liberalist theory. Economic development plays a key role in every society in order to achieve full economic growth. As explained by the different theories, the transition periods of development varies from one country to another. In order to achieve self-reliance for the development and to foster urbanization, education has been identified as a requirement that every society needs in order to promote the development.

Modernization Theory

The theory explained the process by which people progressed from the transitional traditional or pre-modern to a modern society. The theory focuses on the internal factors within a country and proposes that with the help of developed countries, the less developed or the “traditional” countries can develop in the same pace. The theory attempts to identify social variables that promote social progress in developing societies. For example, through the process of social evolution, modernization is credited for the modernization in China. China achieved rapid development based on the adaptation of new technologies and experiences from other countries (Andersen & Taylor, 2007).

Historians postulate that modernization was a product of industrialization and urbanization, catalyzed by the spread of education. Based on the principle of the idea of progress that emerged from The Age of Enlightenment in the 18th Century, Marquis de Condorcet came up with the theory to explain the process of the development in the society. He conceptualized that technological advancements could promote changes in cultural and moral values. Condorcet was the first to establish a relationship between social and economic development and the improvement of social affairs. However, other scientists contributed to the advancement of the theory and came up with sociological and anthropological development theory and the linear stages of growth model (Andersen & Taylor, 2007).

Sociological and Anthropological Development Theory

With the Condorcet encouraging the technological as the means of spurring social process, the sociologist, Emile Durkheim advanced the theory using the social structure approach. He stressed on the concept of functionalism and explained that the society was composed of different institutions that were independent of each other. He explained that when these units interacted with one another, they maintained social and cultural unity that led to transition of the primitive societies to a more economically advanced societies. His work largely depended on the Division of Labor whereby social order was maintained through specialization and rationalization within the capitalist system (Andersen & Taylor, 2007).

Linear Stages of Growth Model

Marshall Plan postulated the economic model that was used to revive the European economy after World War II. The model proposed that the economic development could only be achieved through industrialization. According to the model, capital injection into the country’s economy and the involvement by the public sector would lead to economic development when applied to a traditional society (Andersen & Taylor, 2007).

Intellectual Limitation of Modernization Theory

One of the limitations of the theory is that it conflated modernization with westernization. For instance, modernization could only be achieved by destroying the indigenous culture and replacing it with the westernized culture. By definition, the word modern simply means the present; therefore, any society that is still in existence is a modernized society. Opponents argued that modernity was independent of culture, and any society would adapt it whether it was primitive or westernized. For example, Japan was a non-western society but had become more westernized as a result of modernization (Andersen & Taylor, 2007).

Practical Limitation of Modernization Theory

As argued by Tipp, modernization theory was not precise, and it was difficult to prove how the traditional and modern society could be linked through internal sources of change such as liberalization, democratization and development. For instance, the theory has been accused of Eurocentricism in Europe, which its development was factored by the industrial revolution (Andersen & Taylor, 2007).

Structuralism Theory

The paradigm speculated the elements of human culture in relation to their larger overarching structures. The theory focused on the things that human beings do, feel and think, and their interrelation to constitute a social structure that was based on laws, religious rite and cultural systems. As a development theory, the theory focuses on these structural aspects that hinder economic development in developing countries. The unit analysis of the process of the country’s economic growth is subsistent agriculture, service economy and the urbanized manufacturing. The policies prescribed from structural thinking were the government interventions and how they influenced the growth in the industrial sectors. For instance, the import substitution industrialization was an intervention that was employed on the developing countries to create an economy that aimed to improve the trade of primary goods from agriculture and mining. The structuralists argued that the Third World countries could only develop if the state paved way for industrialization and the country reduced their reliance on trade from the developed countries. For instance, Chile was influenced by the structuralist in 1950 and formed the Economic Commission for Latin America to push for economic development (Cypher, 2014).

Structuralism emerged in 1900s and was postulated by Ferdinand de Saussure, who was a structural linguistic scholar. However, Raul Prebisch, took a different direction by analyzing the internal and external disequilibria of the country economy in relation to the development. Moreover, Celso Furtado developed a model to explain how the productive units in a country relied on the relationships with the developed countries in order to facilitate the development (Cypher, 2014).

Intellectual Limitations of Structuralism Theory

The neoclassical schools of thoughts focused on the free market and the action of non-intervention by the state in market operations. They claimed that the theory failed to explain the evolution of subsistence labor in Latin America towards the Industrial modern labor. The theory also gave an ambiguous definition of primary goods but and their process of evolution before they becoming processed into manufactured goods. The opponents argued that the goods were heterogeneous in nature and urged that the theory should have considered the price trends and their impact on specialization in relation to international commodity price analysi (Cypher, 2014).

Practical Limitation of Structuralism Theory

The neoclassical school of thoughts claimed that the theory was practically and theoretically misguided. They proposed that the specialization of primary goods should have relied on comparative advantages for two reasons. One of the reasons was that the deteriorating terms of trade as a result of Prebisch-Singer hypothesis was methodologically flawed. Also, the state lead industrialization could cause distortion in the market and lead to inflation. Furthermore, the structuralists claim that the Latin America did not have comparative advantages in manufacturing since it was expensive for the state to support them. However, the region had a comparative advantage as entrepreneurs were looking for opportunities resulting from protection and other incentives (Cypher, 2014).

Unilinear Progress

Unilinear model of development was stipulated by Walt Rostow and Daniel Learner. Rostow argued that there were many limitations in the traditional society that hindered economic growth. Such limitations included production facilities, rigid social structures, superstitions and non-use of science and technology. Traditional people also demonstrated irrational attitudes towards development. He argued that a traditional society starts to convert into a modern and industrial society by counteracting the inherent limitations. In order to attain development, there must be an advancement in technology and modern science and its application to industrial and agricultural sectors. When people become enlightened on how the economic development with improving their lives, they seek help from the state for the provision of the resources. Improvement in transport and communication sectors are some of the prerequisites needed for the development to take-off (Ekelund & Hébert 2013).

During the take-off stage, obstacles normal get in the way of development and crumbles the progress. At this stage, the modern institutions expand and growth becomes a normal activity. The investment rate rises from five percent to ten percent of the national income. On the other hand, labor becomes more skill oriented and as a result of other sectors developments, the farm sector also expands. The third stage is the maturity stage. The society achieves sustainable economic growth, the foreign trades blossoms and the production exceeds population growth. The high-mass consumption is the last stage of the unilinear progress whereby people choose to buy luxury goods and services. United States and Japan are regions that have developed through the unilinear progress Model (Ekelund & Hébert 2013).

The World Bank on Lesotho Underdevelopment

The World Bank views Lesotho’s lack of development has been as a result of dependent on the traditional peasant subsistence society. Lesotho is less compared to other countries developed because it has not been introduced into world’s economy due to the inaction of its government. Since its independence in 1966, Lesotho was not virtually brought into the modern economic development. As a result, the rapid population growth caused pressure on land, and many men became migrants who worked in South African in the diamond mines. The agricultural sector becomes stagnated, and Lesotho became what the World Bank referred as a country of poor economic indicators and no economic differentiation because of the overpopulation on land (Holzmann, 2009).


From the discussions, the theories of development have certain contradiction and limitations. However, there is a clear of transition of societies from the historic legacy of underdevelopment and emerging global hegemony of urbanized societies. The technological innovations are the prominent tools which have been addressed by the theories to enlighten people and develop their economies. As such, the focus on the choice of production and development has been described at length in structuralism as since it traces the path of development from the early movers.


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Boulevard: Cengage Learning.

Cypher, J.M. (2014). The process of economic development. Abingdon: Routledge.

Ekelund, R.B., & Hébert, R.F. (2013). A History of economic theory and method: Sixth edition.

Long Grove: Waveland Press.

Holzmann, R. (2009). Social protection and labor at the world bank, 2000-08. New York, NY:

World Bank Publications.