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Dependency and Structuralism vs Liberal and Neoliberal


The dependency theory belongs to radical school of thoughts in international relations meaning departing from conventional acceptable approaches. It is referred to as structural because it analyzes the structure of society, economic structure. The theory assumes that the society is economically determined. The type of economy, its organization and the mode of production influences all forms of behavior. It further assumes that every economy has classes and is capitalistic in nature. Capitalism brings about class divisions, a class is a position occupied by people in the production process. The theory presumes that the state is the committee of a dominant class and it pursues class interest not national interests. This essay compares the tenets of liberalism with those of dependency theory.

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Dependency Theory

The theory is utilized in international relations to predict dependency in third world countries. Dependency has been defined as a condition in which the growth and expansion of an economy is conditioned or determined by growth and expansion of another economy. This means that a dependent state cannot experience a self-sustaining development that is; it cannot be self-reliant because its economy is a reflection of the developed state’s economy. The process of dependency is sustained by foreign aid including technical assistance and military aid. The aid does not enhance the economy but it strengthens dependency relations.

The aid further marginalizes the dependent countries since they create permanent debts. Marxists argue that neither mercantilism nor liberalism guarantee human happiness this is because the owners of the means of production control the markets whereas the state is the property of the elite. It therefore postulates that people should determine their own destiny through collectivization of interests (Allen & Thomas, 2000).

Dependency v Liberalism

  1. Liberalism argues that politics and economics have no relationship whatsoever. The market according to liberalists is self-regulating because it operates on its internal logics. It claims that the market offers a diversity of options where consumers whether rich or poor will be accommodated. Dependency on the other hand postulates that the market is the property of the rich, which is used to perpetuate the poor.
  2. Liberalism suggests that consumers and producers require each other to the extent that producers will only make available those goods and services that consumers require from time to time. Consumers and producers check each to arrive at a win-win situation. Dependency is against this market logic because of monopolization. The rich exploit the poor because they produce goods cheaply and make their prices unaffordable by the poor. Workers produce things that they cannot afford.
  3. Liberal thinkers do emphasize that economic activities that are left to the market will spur growth and development because a market environment nurtures competition through enhanced quality. Those that are unable to keep up with the pace are eased out, as stronger providers will replace them. This guarantees mass happiness due to flexibility while at the same time it offers an opportunity for societies to realize rapid economic development. Dependency has a separate opinion. It argues that competition is fair since the owners of the means of production develop some mechanisms that make it hard for the poor to compete in the market. The poor are left with no option but to provide cheap labor.

In conclusion, liberalism remains the only solution to handling market challenges. Many countries, even the communistic ones have capitalistic orientation to the economy. Liberalism is flexible as compared to mercantilism and dependency theories. Liberalism facilitates peace because countries/people that trade together will relate and co-exist very harmoniously. This is because their interests are tied progressively through transactions. According to liberalists, politics is a perpetual struggle characterized by conflicts, intrigues and largely influenced by zero-sum game. One’s gain is another’s loss. Bringing politics to economics is disastrous, it is better if economic activities are left free of political interventions so that their own logic could be the framework of operations (Szirmai, 2005).

In cases where the market experiences some turmoil, the state should only come in if it persists for too long because such instabilities are usually temporary and the market will soon overcome because it is self-checking and regulating. The state therefore comes in only to correct the environment that causes instability. As soon as that is done, the government should withdraw to allow market fundamentals to regain their independence.


Allen, T. & Thomas, A. (2000) Poverty and Development. London, UK: Oxford University Press.

Burnell, P. & Randall, V. (2008) Politics in the Developing World. London, UK: Oxford University Press.

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Szirmai, A. (2005) The Dynamics of Socio-Economic Development: An Introduction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Todaro, M.P. & Smith, S.C. (2009) Economic Development. Boston: Addison Wesley

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