In the 1960s and 1970s, a peculiar trend emerged in world social thought —dependence theory. Other variants of this trend are dependent development, dependent capitalism, peripheral development, and peripheral capitalism (sometimes this trend is called dependentism). Representatives of the scientific community of Latin America play a significant role in this trend, but it also includes scientists from other countries and regions. The concepts of dependency emerged to understand the poverty and backwardness of the “third world” countries (Latin America, Asia, and Africa).
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The concepts of dependence are based on the assumption that the underdevelopment and poverty of developing countries are due to their dependence on the formed capitalist countries. These countries were the United States, Western Europe, and Japan. The exploitation of the former by the latter was also the reason. Underdevelopment characterizes the socio-economic situation of non-Western countries and is the result of their dependence. Lisimba emphasizes that underdevelopment is not the starting point of developing Latin American, Asian, and African peoples, but its result (Lisimba 37). She points out that a distinction should be made between undevelopment and underdevelopment (Lisimba 38).
Underdevelopment is a consequence of the dependent position in world capitalism, and undevelopment is a phase of development of Western European countries, the United States, and Japan, preceding their current state. Western European countries, the United States, and Japan were once undeveloped, but they were never undeveloped. During the last centuries (Japan since the end of the XIX century), they developed independent capitalist powers. Dependence and underdevelopment arise from the colonial expansion of Western Europe and the colonization of the entire non-European world, which led to the emergence of the world capitalist system.
The social process in Latin American, Asian, and African countries can be called the development of underdevelopment over the past centuries. The social structure of underdeveloped countries is not the result of an autonomous historical process; it is imposed on them by the dominant capitalist powers. Thus, underdevelopment is not a stage of development and not its starting point, but the result.
Lisimba, Ayena. “Theoretical Understanding/Literature Review Dependency Theory.” China’s Trade and Investment in Africa, edited by Palgrave Macmillan, Taylor & Francis Group, 2020, pp. 21-47.