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Theories Outside Mainstream Development




Topic: Theories Outside Mainstream Development
                  Group: 14

                 THAP 815
     Lecturer: Professor Jenkeri Okwori

             CHINDUSU ZONG


Mainstream development stemmed from the need for the propagation of growth and


This study is vital to the history of development in any society, development is given the

status of ‘human right’ as the process is meant to promote the rights and opportunities

of the human race.

When this started it paved a way for consciousness and sensitivity to the rights and

privileges of humanity at the same time, on the other hand it came with promises and

ideas of a ‘better life’ for all.

Economic growth, industrialization was and still is the centre of development.

Institutions and government were central in the shaping of mainstream development

and its discourse and practices.

Theories outside mainstream development on the other hand cannot be ruled out.

These theories emerged as a result of the activities of this historical point of view.

Change is constant in development and as such these theories are seen as having

emerged through changes on a separate platform from mainstream development, but

share certain traits, ideas and practices alike.

Theories: (outside mainstream development)

Socialist Development: it has been argued that the only difference between the

socialist and capitalist theory is that one is state led and the other market led according

to Gordon white.

Social development can be summarily described as the process of organizing human

energies and activities at higher levels to achieve greater results. Development

increases the utilization of human potential.

In the absence of valid theory, social development remains largely a process of trial and

error experimentation, with a high failure rate and very uneven progress. The dismal

consequences of transition strategies in most Eastern Europe countries, the very halting

progress of many African and Asian countries, the increasing income gap between the

most and least developed societies, and the distressing linkage between rising incomes,

environmental depletion, crime and violence reflect the fact that humanity is vigorously

pursuing a process without the full knowledge needed to guide and govern it effectively.

Dependency Theory: Dependency Theory developed in the late 1950s under the

guidance of the Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America,

Raul Prebisch. Prebisch and his colleagues were troubled by the fact that economic

growth in the advanced industrialized countries did not necessarily lead to growth in the

poorer countries. Indeed, their studies suggested that economic activity in the richer

countries often led to serious economic problems in the poorer countries. Such a

possibility was not predicted by neoclassical theory, which had assumed that economic

growth was beneficial to all (Pareto optimal) even if the benefits were not always equally


Self Reliance Theory: Originating in Tanzania under the umbrella of Ujamaa-African

Socialism the concept referred to a development strategy that relied on people’s own

resources and capacities to satisfy their needs. The strategy was formulated in the

Arusha Declaration of February 1967 under the guidance of Tanzania’s president Julius

Nyerere who proposed that “ development be the political mobilization of a people

attaining their own objectives”

The worsening problem of resource scarcity in sub-Saharan African dictates that

governments can no longer rely on conventional means to successfully address the

basic needs of their populations. Community participation has been advanced, and in

fact tried, as a strategy that can be potentially viable in complementing efforts to meet

the needs (Njoh 2002).

The stagnation and undiminished scale of poverty has given rise to numerous strategies

and initiatives at the grassroots level to help cope with the decline. It is against this

backdrop that some village development associations will be examined since their

contribution towards meeting the basic needs of the local population and the

sustainability of local economies is overstated. As Gooneratne and Mbilinyi (1992) put it,

confronted with growing poverty and economic stagnation or depression in the 1980s

and early 1990s, self-reliance has been advanced as a viable alternative strategy to

“dependent development” and donor-led “structural adjustment” in developing countries.

Self-reliance is considered not “merely a necessity but a matter of survival” (Galtung et

al., 1980).

In identifying these theories the central idea of socialist development is that it should be

nationalized, the agriculture socialized, the markets abolished or limited and the

economy centrally planned. Socialism was such that development was offered to the

predominantly rural societies, industrialization was embarked upon them with high costs

and negative outcomes. This industrialization was key in socialist development.

Dependency theory another part of this study originated in Latin America and later

expanded to Europe and Africa. The major focus of this theory is underdevelopment

and the relationship between development and underdevelopment. The industrialized

nations were the ones benefiting at the expense of the countries exporting raw

materials. The trade can be termed as unequal exchange.              They made a lot of

development and high profits from this exchange while the exporting countries remained

at their state of underdevelopment and the struggle to continue to meet up to the

production level as time passed did no good in changing their status.

The more raw materials were exported from them, while products of these raw materials

were sold back to them, they purchased what was actually theirs but refined from

industrialized countries and branded with a new logo. Dependency on these new brands

and products became a routine that could not be controlled. For patronizing these

products meant that masses were meeting a standard for development as these

products began to look more appealing than the local produced products.
Development communication is founded on an idea. The idea is, to put the modern

media of social communication at the service of development. Development is the big

thing these days. Everybody’s talking about it. Big chunks of money are spent in its

name. But what is it?

Discussions of development are usually couched in economic terms. The economic

goal is often described in terms of an increase in the Gross National Product or GNP,

the sum total of goods and services produced by the country annually.

The goal has already been criticized as inadequate. One of the big problems of

underdeveloped countries is the misdistribution of available goods and services.

It doesn’t help much to increase the size of the “economic pie” if 90 per cent of it still

goes to only 10 per cent of the people while the remaining 90 per cent of the people

whose total number increases more rapidly, continue to share in only 10 per cent of the

wealth produced. Their condition will not improve, but can only grow worse.

Responsible economists point out that the development goal should be not only to

increase the production of wealth but also to improve its distribution. In other words, an

increase in GNP, plus social justice, GNP alone won’t do it.

Seen in this light, the problem immediately goes beyond mere economics. And the

point we want to make here is precisely that development means more than

economic development.

Even plain economic development involves more than economics. It requires an

improved social organization. You need better social structures, relative peace and

order, disciplined (and highly motivated) people, a skilled labor force, a dedicated civil

service, a minimum of graft and corruption, a sensible tax structure, a wise government,


Actually, for real economic development, you also need social justice, because this is

what will provide people with their motivation. If people can have a decent share of

what they produce, they will work harder.

When you talk about justice, however, you’re talking about moral values, not just

economics. In other words, just to achieve economic development, you also need moral


To achieve economic development with social justice – without which development

won’t make sense to the common people – you need to change a lot of attitudes.

People have to add a moral dimension to the way they operate their business, for

instance. And workers may need a new attitude towards work, since social justice also

requires that workers do justice to their employers, not only the other way around.

A Total Approach

In short, development really means developing people. Then the people will change

their environment, including their social and economic environment. We need a total

human development approach, even if our immediate goal might be economic

development. The latter, of course, is not the end in itself, but only a means to enable

human beings to live more humanly. For a man may be rich and still live like a pig.

Economic development doesn’t help him.

Conclusion: With the background above we could infer that though seen as outside the

mainstream theories, Socialist, Dependency and Self-reliance theories of development

are increasingly becoming more relevant in today’s definition of development, though

we are yet to ascertain how relevant they are today.

It can be argued that their relevance has been greatly enhanced by the recent bridging

of the digital divide, globalization is now a permanent structure for the now and future

and glocalization is increasingly being advocated for and they are all linked to the third

world dependency on the first world, our search for the utopia of self reliance and

carried on the vehicle of social networks. It is important at this stage to ask ourselves

the true application of the word development especially when we consider these

theories outside the norm of development theories, a quick retort from a sociology

student in ABU Zaria “what you people call development is growth, development comes

with ability to maintain and drive the process of development, being proactive and not

reactive, you can start thinking development when you are sure you can be responsible,

it is a constant process….” No doubt a lot of us still run around in circles trying to figure

out where growth (in this context) stopped and development starts and vice-versa but

suffice to say that the theories considered outside the mainstream development theories

are increasingly becoming relevant in the scheme of things as far as general

development is concerned in whatever context we may chose to study it.


  1. Dependency Theory: An Introduction - Vincent Ferraro, Mount Holyoke College,

       South Hadley, MA July 1996

  2. Theories outside mainstream development: Chapter 2- 02 Thesis (84-98)

  3. A Theory of Development By Genaro V. Ong, Jr. - (From the book “From the

       Village to the Medium”, published by the Communication Foundation for Asia:

       Manila, 1976)

  4. Social Development Theory - by Garry Jacobs and Harlan Cleveland - November

       1, 1999

  5.      Nordic Journal of African Studies 12(2): 196–219 (2003) - THE CONCEPT OF



       FONJONG - University of Buea Cameroon.


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