Neo-Marxist Theories of Dependency

Neo-Marxist Theories of Dependency - CHAPTER 7 Neo-Marxist...

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CHAPTER 7 Neo-Marxist Theories of Underdevelopment and Dependency Neo-Marxist theories of underdevelopment and development appeared during the 1950s, partly as a reaction against the growth and modernisation theories, partly as the outcome of a long-standing debate concerning the impact of imperialism. The early Neo-Marxist theories were primarily known as depend- ency theories. They were to a large extent influenced by the Latin American structuralists and their analyses of the trade relations between the economically backward countries and the highly industrialised countries. With respect to the theoretical heritage from the debate on imperialism, it may be of interest to note that Marx had concerned himself with this issue as early as the 1850s. In articles in publications such as the New York Tribune, Marx tried to assess what would be the long-term impact of the European colonisation of South Asia. In this context, he arrived at the conclusion that imperialism would probably destroy important elements, including local small- scale manufacturing, and set in motion a significant exploitation of the colonial areas; but, on the other hand, he believed that the European penetration would at the same time remove basic obstacles to the development of capitalism. Furthermore, Marx considered many of the British interventions as directly promoting economic transformation. This applied especially to the building and expansion of material infrastructure, the introduction of the plantation economy, monetisation of commodity exchange, and the initial establishment of modern industry with its concomitant wage labour (cf. Marx and Engels, 1972). In other words, British rule implied destruction and exploitation in the short- term perspective, but construction and creation of essential material preconditions for the colonial areas' later transformation to capitalism — and thus, according to Marx, genuine societal development. It may be added that Marx later toned down the constructive aspects of British rule in South Asia. He further asserted that the British colonisation of Ireland had only destructive effects. The interesting point in the present context is to note the wide span in Marx's own conceptions, because this span has paved the way for very different interpretations within the Marxist research tradition. One of the theorists who has championed the view that imperialism has promoted 85
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86 DEVELOPMENT AND UNDERDEVELOPMENT development in the Third World is Bill Watren. We shall look at his main argument later in this chapter. But first we shall deal with the Neo-Marxist mainstream and focus on some of the several theorists who have vehemendy rejected this interpretation and instead asserted that imperialism has actively underdeveloped the peripheral societies — or at the very least obstructed their development. These theorists — most of whom may be regarded as proponents of
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Neo-Marxist Theories of Dependency - CHAPTER 7 Neo-Marxist...

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