Difference Between Modernization Theory and Dependency Theory

Key Difference – Modernization Theory vs Dependency Theory
 

Modernization theory and dependency theory are two development theories between which some difference can be identified. First, let us comprehend the gist of each theory. Dependency theory highlights that due to colonial and post-colonial endeavors the countries at the periphery are constantly exploited by those at the core. On the other hand, modernization theory describes the transformative processes of societies from underdevelopment to modern societies.  This is the key difference between modernization theory and dependency theory. Through this article let us examine the difference between the two theories.

What is Dependency Theory?

Dependency theory highlights that due to colonial and post-colonial endeavors the countries at the periphery (or else the developing countries) are constantly exploited by those at the core (developed countries or else wealthy countries). Dependency theorists highlight that the world system is organized in such a way that the developing countries are always economically dependent and exploited by the wealthy countries.

The argument of the dependency theorists is that, during the colonial period, the countries at the core have exploited the colonies and developed greatly. For instance, most colonial empires exploited various mineral, metals, and other products from their colonies. This allowed them to emerge as industrial, wealthy empires. Also, they promoted slavery so that the production cost can be minimized for their benefit. Dependency theorists highlight that had it not been for such measures most countries would not become such wealthy empires. Even today although colonialism has long ended through neocolonialism this exploitation still continues. They believe that this is mainly visible through foreign debt and trade.

Let us comprehend this further. Most developed countries offer foreign debts to poor countries under various development schemes sometimes directly and at other times through international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank. This makes them economically dependent on the rich countries and forever in debt. They cannot develop at a rapid phase as the country is more worried about paying debts rather than on development. Also when it comes to foreign trade, most developing countries export raw material. This does not benefit the country very much as only a minimum amount is paid for raw materials.

Difference Between Dependency Theory and Modernization theory

Dependency Theory

What is Modernization Theory?

Modernization theory is also a development theory that emerged before the dependency theory. In this sense, the dependency theory can be viewed as a reaction to modernization theory. Modernization theory describes the transformative processes of societies from underdevelopment to modern societies.  This was a key theory used in the 1950s regarding development. It pays attention to the processes which transform a society from a pre-modern state to a modern state in terms of economy, politics, society, and culture. It emphasizes the importance of education, technology, etc. for development.

The modernization theory highlighted the deficiencies that were to be seen in the developing countries and highlighted that it was due to such features that the countries failed to modernize. However, some of the clear limitations of the theory are that it fails to see that the interests of the developed and developing countries are different, and also that inequality is a key feature which denies the country for modernizing.

Dependency Theory vs Modernization theory

What is the Difference Between Modernization Theory and Dependency Theory?

Definitions of Modernization Theory and Dependency Theory

Dependency Theory: Dependency theory highlights that due to colonial and post-colonial endeavors the countries at the periphery (or else the developing countries) are constantly exploited by those at the core (developed countries or else wealthy countries).

Modernization theory: Modernization theory describes the transformative processes of societies from underdevelopment to modern societies.

Characteristics of Modernization Theory and Dependency Theory

Timeline:

Dependency Theory: Dependency theory emerged as a reaction to modernization theory.

Modernization theory: Modernization theory emerged in the 1950s.

Economic development:

Dependency Theory: This highlights that the inequality in the world system where the developing countries are exploited refrain the countries from development.

Modernization Theory: This theory highlights that development is purely an internal factor based on various social processes, and the developing countries are still at a stage where they have not yet reached modernization.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. Dependency Theory By User:Wykis (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

2. “Shanghai-pudong panorama” by Wechselberger – Own work. [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons