Stages of Economic Growth, Theory of

Stages of Economic Growth, Theory of


a bourgeois conception of historical development, which in analyzing the evolution of society gives primacy to the level of technology and the dominance of large-scale industrial production. The theory ignores the character of production relations and represents the economic systems of the industrially developed capitalist and socialist countries as “industrial societies” of the same type. It is one of several bourgeois theories of industrial society.

The theory of the stages of economic growth was first presented by W. Rostow in the late 1950’s as a challenge to the Marxist doctrine of socioeconomic formations. It divides societies into two basic types—traditional, or precapitalist, society and industrial, or capitalist, society. In historical development, it identifies five stages of economic growth: (1) traditional society, (2) preparation of preconditions for take-off, (3) take-off and transition to industrial development, (4) industrial society, and (5) mass consumption. Rostow asserted that industrial development and industrialization in each country should lead invariably to the same results as in the West, apparently regardless of the character of production relations. According to Rostow, the socialist countries are merely passing through the stages that the developed capitalist countries have already left behind; the USSR allegedly lags an entire social epoch behind the USA and will evolve toward capitalism in the next few decades.

The theory of stages of economic growth is methodologically erroneous, combining technological determinism with a psychological, largely voluntarist, interpretation of historical development. It is, on the whole, an undisguised apology for capitalism.


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