By Katy Gardner, David Lewis
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Additional resources for Anthropology and Development: Challenges for the Twenty-First Century
One major drawback to defining development as economic growth is that in reality the ‘trickle-down effect’ rarely takes place; growth does not necessarily lead to enhanced standards of living. As societies in the affluent North demonstrate, the increased use of highly sophisticated technology or a fast-growing GNP does not necessarily eradicate poverty, illiteracy or homelessness, although it may well alter the ways these ills are experienced. In contrast, neo-Marxist theory, which was increasingly to dominate academic debates surrounding development in the 1970s, understands capitalism as inherently inegalitarian.
In this view the improvement policies advocated by modernisation theory can never work, for they do not tackle the root causes of the problem. Rather Gardner T02723 01 text 24 16/12/2014 11:14 Understanding Development 25 than development projects which ease the short-term miseries of underdevelopment, or support the status quo, dependency theory suggests that the only solution possible is radical, structural change. There are of course examples of this solution being followed. The radical internal restructuring of countries embracing socialism in the 1950s (China and Cuba are key examples) and the subsequent problems faced by them demonstrate that this is a route fraught with difficulty, however.
Notions of dependency have also contributed to, and reflect, the increasing politicisation of ‘development’ in the South at both grassroots and state levels. As an intellectual movement, its proponents were mostly situated in the South, in particular Latin America. Most fundamentally, neo-Marxist analysis raises a question largely ignored by theories of modernisation, but of crucial importance: who gets what from development? By focusing upon the ways in which profit for some is connected to loss for others, neo-Marxist analysis remains an important contribution to the understanding of development, even if as an analytical tool it is sometimes a little blunt.