Out from Underdevelopment Revisited: Changing Global Structures and the Remaking of the Third World.
Bruce E. Moon, Lehigh University
Few policy areas have witnessed the rapid swings of sentiment, the fierce ideological divisions, and the technical complexity that make Third World development so daunting a subject for outsiders. These two books provide an effective introduction to this fractious literature for the intended audience of generalists and students, though there is little new here for development scholars.
Rapley organizes his exposition around a timeline of development theory's shifting fashions concerning the relative role of the market and the state. He begins with a review of classical theory's homage to the free market, a primer on the Keynesian response, and a brief summary of the state of the Third World through the middle of the twentieth century. With these pieces assembled, he outlines the basic elements of development thinking in the postwar era: the initial structuralism associated with ECLA and various strands of modernization and dependency theories. Chapter 2 then examines statism as the policy upshot of this theoretical melange, though he correctly notes (p. 27) that "events, rather than theory, drove the early experiments with import substitution industrialization (ISI)." He argues that the statism exemplified by the initial successes of Latin American ISI eventually fell victim to the crises of the 1970s. In the following chapters, Rapley plays out his thesis that development theory and practice have moved more or less together in a continuing pendulum swing. Chapter 3 documents the reemergence of neoclassical thought in the 1980s in response to the discrediting of ISI, and chapter 4 examines structural adjustment policies as the embodiment of that neoclassical theory. Chapter 5 sketches the disparate responses to the evident limitations of structural adjustment, emphasizing the reemergence of the Left and the appearance of the "developmental state" model to encapsulate the economic successes of East Asia. Rapley seems to embrace this "new statism," but chapter 6 offers a generally pessimistic assessment of prospects for successful implementation of the model elsewhere, especially in Africa, due both to internal limitations (especially the weakness of the state) and international obstacles. Indeed, he correctly notes that African states, under the pressure of austerity, are generally moving away from this expansive role. As he adroitly does throughout the book, Rapley supports this claim with thumbnail sketches of the experience of several countries.
By emphasizing a close link between development theory and the actual practice of economic policymaking, Rapley grounds the discussion in a way that will be much appreciated by both students and their instructors. Others may find this account somewhat antiseptic because it downplays the role of domestic politics, ideology, and international financial institutions, but any 200-page work that covers the waterfront of development must compromise somewhere.
Whereas Rapley's account is somewhat more neat than the underlying phenomena it portrays, the book by Mittelman and Pasha is more chaotic. In part this is because their work is centered more around problems and policies than theory, but it also is organized much more loosely. In fact, though this second edition is coauthored, the overall structure and feel of the book remains that of a personal journey by Mittelman, the single author of the first edition. It begins with his own earliest exposure to the Third World in an entertaining six-page introduction to the first edition, and observations from Mittelman's African fieldwork pepper the remainder of the work. The book champions a structural perspective rooted in theory, but an unconventionally eclectic approach is used to elaborate it. The result is hit-and-miss. For example, chapter 1 decries the simplistic understanding of the Third World proffered by public media, but it is not enhanced by a two-page excerpt from the 1977 interview with Fidel Castro by Barbara Walters, which centered on personal questions about marriage and family. Yet, the critique of modernization theory and explanation for the rise of dependency thinking in chapter 2 is enlivened by a three-page excerpt from the work of a Ugandan poet. The critique of international organizations, foreign aid, and transnational corporations in chapter 3 will seem tired to experienced readers, but these familiar points are made in a spirited way that will capture the imagination of those new to this way of thinking. Chapter 4 introduces the rudiments of Marxist ideas on development in an accessible way.
Extended case studies rather than idealized models are used to portray the three strategies of accumulation open to Third World nations: "Join, leave, or weave." Chapter 5 illustrates the option of joining global capitalism with a fine description of the Brazilian "miracle" (1967-74) that emphasizes its inequitable distribution and unsustainability. The historical narrative sketches the events and conditions that preceded this justly (in)famous episode and chronicles the developmental tragedies that have ensued. Unfortunately, the account of Brazilian policy swings over the last 50 years may tend to confuse readers seeking a single model of what it means "to join." Furthermore, the only new chapter in this edition (the sixth, drafted by Pasha) offers the "miracle" of the Asian NICs as a variant on this option, downplaying the diversity of policy approaches undertaken across these cases and over time. Several theories purporting to explain their success are skillfully delineated, but this exposition gives no hint of the trouble to come for these East Asian success stories. As does nearly every other commentator, Pasha has reservations about this developmental model that are much more related to its social and political dimensions than to its economic sustainability. (One wonders how much more pessimistic their assessments would be today, when the East Asian miracles appear not merely untransferable but, even in themselves, temporary and illusory.) His forecast that this model will not be widely applied elsewhere - because, as Pasha adeptly explains, the conditions favoring success were unique in time and space - will surely fare better. Chapter 7 explores the "exit" option, using as an illustration China under Mao, with a brief discussion of the "reentry" under Deng. Mozambique is an example of the alternative path of "weaving through global capitalism" in chapter 8. Unfortunately, much of this treatment seems dated now, and the theoretical and/or policy lessons to be drawn from these historical narratives are not clearly articulated.
The divergence between the two books is captured by Mittelman's observation that "neophytes seek an account that de-mystifies the issues, while many experts write about what their fellow experts say about the topic." Rapley does indeed write about what the experts say, but he does so with a rare clarity that makes accessible a literature teeming with the contributions of theorists, area scholars and policy analysts, and the perspectives offered by economists, political scientists, and sociologists. He injects greater analytic depth than is usually found in a survey of such diversity, and yet he does it in a compact work that should prove very attractive to both the student and the nonspecialist. The latter especially will appreciate the frequent references to historical events and cases as well as the theoretical snippets dotting the book. While the organization of Understanding Development is surely theory-centric, it by no means short changes policy practice. Many of these references are too brief to inform an inexperienced reader fully, but they will provide a helpful grounding for the informed nonspecialist and fodder for expansion by classroom lecturers. Furthermore, ample footnoting points the way to most of the classics of development theory. By contrast, the complete absence of footnotes limits the value of Out from Underdevelopment Revisited as a springboard to further reading, despite a lightly annotated bibliography at the end.
Important similarities in the messages of these books are revealed by the way they conclude, speaking to the current state of development theory and practice while looking ahead to the future. Both close with more hope than despair but also with more questions than answers. Rapley ends with the forecast that development theory has now reached a revolutionary phase marked by the search for a new paradigm, but he also suggests that profound cultural differences limit the universality of any development theory. The final section heading of Understanding Development asks: "What is the future of leftist thought?" The ambiguous and optimistic answer is in the first sentence of the Introduction: "The left is dead; long live the left."
Mittelman and Pasha are even more emphatic on each of these points. The central mission of their book is to demonstrate that hopeful alternatives exist to neoliberal orthodoxy, most of which emanate from ideas associated with the Left. The choice among them, however, cannot be prescribed universally by theorists, most especially those from the North, but must be made "by those engaged in praxis under markedly distinct conditions and most directly in touch with the specific contradictions that beset their lives" (p. 242). Finally, Out from Underdevelopment Revisited ends with a chapter entitled "What Works in the Third World?" Despite their best efforts, neither volume has convinced this reviewer that the answer is not "not much."
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|Author:||Moon, Bruce E.|
|Publication:||American Political Science Review|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jun 1, 1998|
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