Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Evans and Stephens, Revisited

I am studying to retake my Sociology of Development prelim. I'm revisiting a reading I blogged before called Development and the World Economy by Evans and Stephens (1988). Pardon me for the repeated post. It helps me comprehend and remember the material to write it up. My thoughts here are geared specifically for answering the question I will need to answer on my prelim, which is roughly how various development theories explain inequalities in the world, and then to provide critique and discussion for the validity of each.

Peter Evans is the author of Dependent Development, published in 1979, which is about dependency theory, specifically in cases where the dependent nation begins to industrialize but remains dependent (hence: dependent development). At the time, Brazil was one of only a few countries exhibiting dependent development; one could say there are more today. I will cover his work in another post, but I mention it here because his perspective is important as we consider what he says about the various theories of development he chronicles in this piece.

Modernization Theory
They begin with critiques of modernization theory:

  1. Modernization theory is a universal theory based on the experience of a single country, and that's problematic. (p. 739) "Our industrialization was taken as a model, both normatively and theoretically, and the principal issue was how the model might be extended to others with different histories, social structures, and cultural traditions" (p. 741). Parsonian structural-functionalism, based on America, was taken as a theoretical underpinning for modernization theory. See below for more.
  2. Modernization theory provided an explanation that was "actorless" - trends like urbanization and bureaucratic are not explained as being driven by interests of states, corporations, or any other social actors. (p. 739)
  3. Modernization theory ignores the possibility that 20th century development patterns were different from those of previous centuries. (p. 739)
  4. It allows for tension and conflict during the process of development.
  5. It does not consider there may be conflicts of interest between developed and developing countries.
  6. It does not consider each nation's position in the interrelationships between countries. Except for accounting for nations influencing one another via the demonstration effect, it treats each nation as existing in a vacuum, which is not accurate. For nations with a recent colonial past, this means ignoring parts of their history that have been very influential to their present day reality.

An important point in comparing modernization and dependency theory is that dependency theory turns modernization theory "on its head" (p. 740). The former claims that ties between the periphery and core are beneficial because development will be transmitted via diffusion. The latter views ties between the periphery and core as roadblocks to development in the periphery.

Why did Modernization Theory blow it in terms of its theoretical underpinnings? (p. 741) In part because they used Parsonian theory. Parsonian theory used some Weberian theory but left crucial ideas of Weber out (notably his "historical materialist" side). It used Weber's idea of increasing rationality as "the definition of movement toward modernity" but defined rationality solely as bureaucracy but left out Weber's idea of centralization of power and domination of social groups. It also left out Weber's view of the evolution of capitalism (i.e the Protestant ethic). Modernization theory also uses Durkheim's idea of the differentiation of different functions in society as a master process of development. They also believed that preservation of organic unity in society was important as industrialization occurred in the Global South, as it had been in the Global North.

Evans and Stephens say "The resultant prescription for the citizens of the underdeveloped world and those who would assist them was to find ways of inculcating the attitudes purported to prevail in advanced capitalist countries without being overwhelmed by the tensions created by such drastic value change" (p. 742). In other words, the people of the Global South needed to adopt Western attitudes and values in order to develop, and they must do so at a pace and in a way that did not tear their society apart.

Evans and Stephens say the perspective of modernization theory is an easy fit with neoclassical economics. Universalism is needed to make the market work, and people must leave their traditional ways in order to participate fully in the market. Politically, the assumption was that since the Global South was to mimic the economic system of the Global North, it should adopt the political system as well. This is where the critique that modernization theory fails to analyze class structure fits in. Evans believes that actually repressive regimes are most fitting for nations undergoing dependent development because the state needs to keep wages low to attract multinational corporations to operate in their country, and because the local elite will be wealthy, partnering with international capital and consuming luxury goods, whereas the masses will be excluded from the benefits of development, and the state requires the use of violence to maintain such a system. Furthermore, he says a parliamentary system is used to create consensus among various factions of the bourgeois and nations undergoing dependent development will have a large working class and a politically weak bourgeoisie, making parliamentary government incompatible with their needs. Evans wrote his book during the dictatorships in the Southern Cone, so perhaps a more updated analysis would find a different answer. Either way, analysis of different classes and actors vying for power is an important part of Evans' analysis and it is totally absent here. Perhaps that is where his critique of modernization theory as actorless comes from.

Evans and Stephens seem to praise it for allowing for conflict during the development process. For example, if one modernization process occurs faster than another, there may be tension between the two.

However, they are critical of it for assuming the development trajectory of all nations will follow that of the U.S. and Europe. They say modernization theory sees any deviations from that trajectory as aberrations to be corrected rather than data points that should be used to inform and revise the theory. They also criticize it as ethnocentric because unique cultures are seen as "only obstacles to be overcome" that are replaced by Western values (p. 742).

Evans and Stephens think the fix for modernization theory would be to include Marxist theory, which would examine actors with conflicting interests and examine the global political economy as a whole (since all nations coexist with one another). This is a bit of a funny critique though since Rostow, who first theorized modernization theory, set himself up as an anti-Marx. So they are saying that a bad theory that is intended to refute Marx would do better to just agree with Marx. They add that the Marxist theory available at the time wouldn't have been enough to truly fix modernization theory.

I'm skipping the next section on Comparative Historical Approaches since I don't intend to cover it on my prelim.

Dependency and the World System
Evans and Stephens cover dependency theory and world-systems theory together (p. 745). I'll be focusing on dependency theory since that's what I intend to write about in my prelim.

Dependency theory contradicted modernization theory in a few key ways. First, it's Marxist. Second, because core nations (a.k.a. developed nations, a.k.a. the Global North) already developed and built strong states and strong industrial economies, that made it impossible for the nations on the periphery to develop in the exact same way. Remember, England did it by importing raw materials (wheat, corn, cotton) from the periphery, industrializing its textile industry, and then selling the textiles to both domestic and foreign markets. A nation on the periphery can't exactly colonize England and use it as a source for raw materials and a market for its finished goods. Nations on the periphery are attempting to develop in an entirely different world than core nations industrialized in, and they aren't going to have the same route to industrialization.

Third, the roadblock to progress in the periphery is not ties to traditional values, but local elites and foreign capital who try to "defend their own power and privilege" (p. 745).

Fourth, Baran and Frank focus on interests instead of norms and values (whereas Modernization Theory focuses on norms and values). Evans and Stephens say their materialist approach may have been overdone, but they still got the theory to a better place and it could be improved from there.

Modernization theory looked at the development of the core nations and assumed that the periphery would develop in the same way. Dependency theory examines the nations of the periphery (especially Latin America) to determine how development takes place (or doesn't) in the periphery. The latter view turns out to be more accurate.

Evans and Stephens contrast dependency theory and world-systems theory by noting that dependency theory focuses on the internal dynamics within the periphery, whereas world-systems theory focuses more on the relationships between the core and the periphery. In the case of world-systems theory, they note that Wallerstein said that the positions of individual nations within the world-system may change over time but the overall world-system remains intact.

Evans and Stephens' discussion of how theory treats states and markets seems to mostly contradict neoliberalism, even though they were not writing about it. That is, they say that strong interventionist states that used state power to foster industrial development either by nationalizing the mines or protecting fledgling industries are the ones that were able to industrialize, whereas Chile and Argentina also had strong states but they allowed the "unfettered operation of the market" and that resulted in deindustrialization (p. 750). One can expect at least Evans' perspective to be compatible with dependency theory, particularly his own writing on dependent development. It appears they believe that modernization theory is similar in this way to neoliberalism - it calls for a state to protect private property rights and let the market work, and blames the state and its power for the "traditional rigidities" that prevent development (p. 749).

The second issue they discuss is development and democracy. The third is distribution. Modernization theory predicts that greater development leads to more democracy and more equal distribution of wealth. In other words, modernization theory seems to uncritically believe that development is a panacea, without a whole lot of evidence to back up such a view. Perhaps it's the backward looking perspective it takes, looking only at American and Western European development, along with its ethnocentrism. That is, it views the U.S. and Western Europe as equal and democratic, and then assumes that any other nation that develops will do so along the same trajectory and with the same results.

Evans and Stephens discussion mostly revolve around the other theories, the ones actually based in the experiences of the developing world, comparing and contrasting different nations, and examining different actors within those nations. They seem to mention modernization theory almost nominally, as if it is so obviously wrong that more discussion is not needed. They present an analysis of democratization in Europe that does not treat democracy as the natural outcome of development but instead analyzes various class factions and their alliances and power vis-a-vis each other to understand how each nation arrived at democracy and when they were instead autocratic (such as Germany, Spain, and Italy in the mid-20th C.).

As for distribution, those within dependency theory believe in the Marxist idea of capitalist accumulation, in which - as that occurs - inequality increases as the rich get richer and the gap between rich and poor grows. Or, put another way, capital is enriched and the gap between capital and labor grows (p. 754).

Evans and Stephens refute the idea that development inherently leads to greater equality by pointing out that redistribution via the welfare state is not simply arrived at through industrialization but through political struggle. Here again we see why they critique modernization theory for being "actorless."

Quite frankly, I'm skipping the rest of the reading because there is no way on earth I can remember all of this and regurgitate it in an essay on my prelim without bringing notes in with me anyway.

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