Andre Gunder Frank & Dependency Theory

In the book “The development of underdevelopment,” Andre Gunder Frank discusses the factors that have resulted in underdevelopment in certain areas of the world and rapid development in others.

Dependency Theory is a concept based on the global relation of economic domination and exploitation by the more economically powerful countries over the less economically powerful countries. As a result of the unequal distribution of power and resources, some countries have developed at a faster pace than others. Frank further argues that we cannot formulate an adequate development policy for a majority of the world’s population without knowing how their past economic and social history influenced their current underdevelopment. Additionally, he states that we tend to believe that their history tends to resemble the history of the more developed countries and that such assumptions lead to misconceptions about contemporary development and underdevelopment.

The ideas regarding development that Frank expresses in “The development of underdevelopment” go directly against the ideas that Rostow explored in “The Stages of Growth.” Frank rejects the idea that underdevelopment stems from an individual country’s isolation from the larger world and due to the influence of more traditional societies. On the contrary, Frank believes that underdevelopment results from the unequal distribution of resources and exploitation of the less developed and emerging countries by the more developed countries through the so-called “metropolis-satellite relations” theory. Additionally, Frank rejects the development belief promoted by Rostow that an accurate way to explain development is to look at the past experiences of countries in North America and Europe. On the other hand, Frank believes that holding such views creates numerous misconceptions and prevents an accurate view of contemporary development from emerging.

Dependency Theory is the idea that resources flow from a “periphery” of poor and underdeveloped states to a “core” of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former.

Additionally, it can be argued that the development theory proposed by Andre Gunder Frank is dissimilarly promoted by Seymour Lipsett in “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy.” In his work, Lipsett argues that economic development and the level of democracy go hand in hand and that increased economic development will, in turn, result in increased democracy and political freedom. Furthermore, Lipsett requires that studying democracy requires the scholar to look at the conditions that caused democracy to emerge in specific countries. Much like with Rostow’s theories, Frank would reject this view because it requires looking at past experiences in certain countries as a way to generalize the belief of economic development and democracy. Moreover, Lipsett’s theory ignores the relationship between powerful (core countries) and the less developed (periphery) countries and the fact that the developed countries taking advantage of the less developed ones resulted in an unequal balance of power on the international stage.

Andre Gunder Frank asserts that Latin America experiences its highest rates of industrialization during the period between the end of World War 1 and the beginning of World War II. As a case study, Frank focuses on the economy of Brazil and describes how its capital, Sao Paulo, became one of the largest and most developed industrial hubs in Latin America. Despite the rapid development of Brazil, Frank argues that Brazil will not break out of the cycle of underdevelopment due to its continued reliance on the more developed nations as a way to export its resources.

the author

Matt has been studying and analyzing politics at all levels since the 2004 Presidential Election. He writes about political trends and demographics, the role of the media in politics, comparative politics, political theory, and the domestic and international political economy. Matt is also interested in history, philosophy, comparative religion, and record collecting.

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  1. Rochelle on July 7, 2017

    The article is brief, yet effectively captures all key concepts of the theory in a comprehensive manner. It was a very educative and fun read!

  2. Patrick on March 15, 2018

    yes, looking at the past experiences in certain countries as a way to generalize the belief of economic development and democracy is helpful in the study of International Relations.

  3. Justine Embegalo on July 23, 2018

    According to the view of dependence theory, the core nations develops due to the presence of periphery nations due to the available food,raw materials that makes the underdevelopment of periphery.

  4. Pradeep Choudhary on September 11, 2018

    according to this theory it is generally argued that Europe developed on the resources of Asia and other colonies. the same concept applies on India and china why they didnt developed. however in the case of india, its true that it was a colony on British, but why didnot china developed like Europe . can you give me this answer? however its is generally said that china is largely self sufficient country,in spite of it what was the reason that china didnot developed?

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