underdevelopment

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underdevelopment

[¦ən·dər·də¦vel·əp·mənt]
(graphic arts)
Insufficient development of a photographic print; processing to a degree lower than the optimum density.

underdevelopment

  1. the general state of a society yet to undergo major social and economic development, particularly by INDUSTRIALIZATION and MODERNIZATION.
  2. a process whereby a society, especially its economy, changes under the influence of another society which becomes dominant. Baran (1957), Furtado (1964) and FRANK (1967b) formulated the concept in opposition to prevailing economic theories of change in the THIRD WORLD, and in particular to the theory of MODERNIZATION in the SOCIOLOGY OF DEVELOPMENT. As argued by Frank and Baran, ECONOMIC SURPLUS is said to be transferred out of the dominated society, making economic growth there difficult or impossible. Commercial ports and élites in the Third World absorb some of the surplus, but most is absorbed in the dominant societies in a METROPOLIS-SATELLITE relationship. The underdeveloped economy has certain activities encouraged at the expense of others. The industrial countries were interested in developing mineral and agricultural products from the Third World as supplies to their own economies. The Third World countries were in turn seen as potential markets for manufactured goods. Thus, underdevelopment was a condition which already industrialized societies had not experienced. This led to the conclusion that the processes of industrialization experienced in Western Europe and the US were not repeatable in the Third World, not least since the starting points were radically different. This economic relationship had important consequences for social, political and cultural processes, so broadening out the concept of underdevelopment to embrace most aspects of society.
The concept has been criticized by Marxists for being overreliant on reference to market forces to explain economic problems in the Third World, for overstressing external rather than internal processes, for underestimating the prospects of industrialization in the Third World, and for having a weak concept of economic surplus at its centre (Brenner, 1977). However, shorn of its more particular usages, the term is frequently used to refer to Third World societies because of the central notion that they confront problems of development different from those faced by the already industrialized countries. See also DEPENDENCY THEORY, WORLD SYSTEMS. Compare IMPERIALISM, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, UNEVEN DEVELOPMENT.