Saturday, June 10, 2017

"The Development of Underdevelopment" by Andre Gunder Frank (1966)

Frank begins by taking issue with three common ideas (most likely common to the modernization theorists of the time).
  1. First, he says it is not the case that all nations pass through the same set stages of development. He disagrees that the state of current underdeveloped countries corresponds to the past of current developed countries. He remarks that developed nations were previously undeveloped, but never underdeveloped. Prior to their development, no countries on earth were developed.
  2. Second, it's inaccurate to believe a nation's state of underdevelopment is a product of factors entirely within that country alone. Underdevelopment is a result of a history of relations between underdeveloped and developed nations.
  3. Development will not come to underdeveloped nations via diffusion of "capital, institutions, values, etc" from outside. He believes "underdeveloped countries economic development can now occur only independently of most of these relations of diffusion." (emphasis added)

Frank takes issue with an understanding of inequality in developing nations that assumes that the wealthy industrialized fraction of the society became so due to its "intimate economic relations" with the developed world, and that the poor, subsistence-based fraction of the population is separate from that relationship, constituting a "dual" society. Frank believes that both halves of these "dual" societies are products of capitalist development.

In other words, the poor backward half of a nation is not poor or backward because it was left out of development that the wealthier half benefited from; it is so because of it. The two are related as parts of the same system.

He supports this statement by reminding the reader of the history of colonial cities in Latin America, centers of mestizo life, surrounded by Indians in a "peasant hinterland." The cities and countryside and their mestizo and Indian populations, respectively, were connected by "economic and social interdependence." The cities served to "suck capital or economic surplus" from the surrounding (satellite) region and to in turn "impose and maintain" the exploitative relationship on that satellite. While that system was put in place in the distant past, Frank calls it "the principal and still surviving structural characteristics" of the Conquest of Latin America.

It appears Frank uses "metropolis" and "satellite" as other scholars use the words "core" or "center" and "periphery."

Like Cardoso and Faletto, Frank emphasizes the economic, social, and political aspects of both history and the modern day. His two main case studies are Chile and Brazil. Any development that occurred in satellites was neither "self-generating nor self-perpetuating" so as soon as an area's exported good was no longer in demand, investment in that area stopped.

Also, somewhat hilariously, Frank predicts the impending invention of a synthetic coffee substitute that will deal a death blow to Latin American coffee producers.

Frank writes that the successful industrialization within Sao Paolo, instead of enriching the rest of Brazil, has "converted them into internal colonial satellites, de-capitalized them further, and consolidated or even deepened their underdevelopment."

He restates his point that underdevelopment is not due to isolation from the world market, it is due to contact with it. He adds that Latin America did best when Europe and the U.S. left it alone because they were busy having a Depression and two World Wars, using this as evidence that the best path to development for Latin America is less contact with Europe and the U.S. He says this development gets "choked off" when the core nations recover from their crises and re-establish trade and investment ties.

Frank further hypothesizes that regions that seem the most backward today are the ones that had the closest contact with the core nations in the past.

All in all, this appears to be a rather simplistic argument that the more economic ties a developing region has with developed nations, the worse off it is, and vice versa.

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