Transformation of Concept of Development During 1970s

The politico-economic conditions at the global level underwent a considerable change in the seventies of the Twentieth Century. At the outset of Cold War, it was widely assumed in US government and academic circles that poverty in the Third World facilitated the spread of international communism. The assumption on the part of Western countries and USA that modernisation would bring an end to poverty and undercut anti-capitalist revolution was not in a position to get legitimacy from the Third World masses. Democracy and development, which ought to be mutually supportive came to stand by the Seventies in sharp and antagonistic juxtaposition.

All these conditions motivated the Western intellectuals to bring considerable modifications to the modernisation theory of fifties and sixties. Samuel P.Huntington, who perceived a direct causal link between economic growth, social change and democratisation, represented this. “It also assigned particular importance to the emerging ‘middle classes’ in the Third World, which were expected to fulfill both a restraining and progressive function”. On the one hand, these classes were intended to contain the socialist tendencies in the Third World and on the other wanted to maintain the ‘order’ in society.

An early shift towards this realisation was the rise of ‘military modernisation’ theory which resulted in the ‘South-East Asian Miracle’ and later the ‘Politics of Order’ approach which led to the technocratic interpretation about the crisis in the polity, economy and societies of the Third World countries. The World Bank and IMF largely represented these interpretations from the seventies, on the part of developed countries, particularly USA. A substantial discussion of this neo-liberal rhetoric has been taken up in another post.

This kind of modifications to the modernisation theory questioned the view that there was a connection between underdevelopment and instability. Its exponents argued that it was the attempt to modernise rather than the absence of ‘modernity’ in the Third World, which resulted in political instability. According to Huntington, instability in the Third World had to be understood as primarily a result of the gap between aspirations and expectations flowed from the initial stages of modernisation. This has been reflected in Huntington’s analysis of ‘post-industrial society’ which says that there has already been an ‘excess of democracy’ and therefore what is needed is greater degree of moderation in democracy by giving stabilising role to the military and a strong state.

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