1 minute read


Reformist Dependency Theory

During the 1970s, the emergence of vibrant economies in some parts of the Third World, especially in countries like South Korea and Taiwan, challenged the radical dependentistas' argument for the inevitability of underdevelopment within the capitalist system. Reformist dependency thinking emerged to deal with these contradictions. In particular, the Brazilian social scientist Fernando Cardoso and his colleague, the sociologist Enzo Faletto, while sympathetic to much of radical dependency thinking, rejected the assertion that peripheral underdevelopment was completely determined by the logic of capital accumulation, and argued that Latin America economies were better understood by looking at "forms of local societies, reactions against imperialism, the political dynamics of local societies, and attempts at alternatives" (pp. xv–xvi). Dependency, for them, depended more on local dynamics and the maneuvers of politicians, particularly their willingness to be co-opted by foreign capital, than on the inevitable workings of the world capitalist system. Indeed, they rejected the notion of a world economy, positing instead a world of multiple capitalist systems, with each nation having its own specific social formation and style of capitalism.

Cardoso and Faletto also rejected the radical dependentistas' blanket hostility to the national bourgeoisie. Their focus on internal factors highlighted the importance of discovering which groups and classes were willing and able to push for national development. This could include the national bourgeoisie as well as labor, peasants, ethnic groups, and civil society. No class or group was inevitably seen as inclined to help or hinder national development. Cardoso (1972) posited three ways that nations in the Global South could attain development: (1) gaining political autonomy and using that power to industrialize; (2) developing an export-oriented economy capable of accumulating enough capital to industrialize; and (3) being assisted by multinational capital investments that would foster technology transfer and eventual industrialization (a dependent form of development, however). While accepting the tendency toward dependent development rather than the achievement of economic and political autonomy in the Gloabal South, the reformist dependency theorists stake out a very different position than their radical colleagues. For Cardoso and other reformists, genuine autonomous development can occur in the South if the correct alignment of internal forces, both structural and cultural/ideological, can be set in place.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Dependency - The Intellectual Roots Of Dependency Thinking to Dirac equationDependency - The Intellectual Roots Of Dependency Thinking, Radical Dependency Theorists, Reformist Dependency Theory, Critiques Of Dependency