stages of development
stages of developmentspecific economic, cultural, social or political forms which societies are thought to have to pass through to achieve a given destination. The concept is commonly used in evolutionary and neoevolutionary approaches to SOCIAL CHANGE. In understanding economic change ROSTOW's approach rests upon the delineation of stages. The whole concept has been much criticized because:
- stages are difficult to identify, and there are as many different classifications of stages as there are authors;
- it tends to be associated with mechanistic and deterministic approaches to social change;
- European history is generally used to construct various stages which are then seen as necessary for other societies to pass through (see MODERNIZATION);
- diffusion from one society to another will affect stages in differing societies;
- it is difficult to show that any one stage is a necessary prerequisite for the next (see UNEVEN DEVELOPMENT).
There is, however, some validity in the argument that there are very general stages which societies have to pass through, for example that an AGRARIAN SOCIETY has to exist before there can be an INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY, but there can be various forms contained within those categories. The history of the 20th-century in particular has shown that there are a variety of forms of agrarian society which experience transformations to industrial societies in a variety of ways. The fact that the variations seem to be finite does not necessarily justify the strong use of the concept of stages of development. See also INDUSTRIALIZATION. EVOLUTIONARY UNIVERSALS.