Chapter One
Some Questions on Development

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Brief guide to reading

There is a great deal of literature on ‘development’ and ‘underdevelopment’, although less than one would expect in view of the importance of the subjects. Most of that which is available seeks to justify capitalism. Hence, there is a narrow concentration on ‘economic development’ and particularly on capitalist economies, rather than any analysis of human social development. That approach is challenged by Marxist writers in the metropoles and increasingly by scholars from the underdeveloped world.

Frederick Engels, Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State.

Karl Marx, Preface to a Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy.

Karl Marx, Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations edited by E. J. Hobsbawm.

These three works are samples of writing by the founders of what is now called Marxism. Most of the publications of Marx and Engels have a relevance to the theme of development, with particular emphasis on feudal and capitalist times.

Richard T. Gill, Economic Development: Past and Present.

Ragnar Nurkse, Problems of Capital Formation in Underdeveloped Countries.

These are typical examples of bourgeois metropolitan views on development and underdevelopment – the first being a text for North American college students by a Canadian economist and the second being a frequently reprinted work of one of the most prominent bourgeois advocates of the ‘vicious circle of poverty’ theory. Unfortunately, these are also the kind of books which dominates the shelves of any university or public library in Africa. The reader is invited to test this generalisation.

J. D. Bernal, Science in History.

Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China.

Both of these are lengthy, but they should be tackled. Science and technology derive from the effort to understand and control the natural environment. Familiarity with the history of science is essential to an awareness of the development of society. Needham’s book is cited here as a corrective to the fairly common view that science is something peculiarIy European.

Celso Furtado, Development and Underdevelopment.

A. Gunder Frank, Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America.

T. Szentes, The Political Economy of Underdevelopment. (Budapest, 1971.)

The first writer is from Brazil, a country with a long history of dependence on and exploitation by the metropoles of Europe and North America. Frank’s book reflects the thinking of many progressive Latin American intellectuals and it has now become well entrenched as a view of Marxists inside the metropoles. Szentes is a Hungarian economist systematically applying Marxist insights to the actual data and processes of the underdeveloped world and imperialism as a whole.

Samir Amin, The Class Struggle in Africa. (Africa Research Group, Box 213, Cambridge, Massachusetts.)

Samir Amin is a North African. He stands out with regard both to the volume of his productions and the quality of his insights. The text cited above is very general – covering in outline the period of the coots of development in ancient Africa right up to the present and the projected Socialist future. It is likely that more of his work will be translated into English (French being his working language).


Table of Contents

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Walter Rodney 1973

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