As the second world war came to an end, many countries in the south were left in a poor state and had seemingly failed to develop. Despite some even being exposed to capitalism, ‘modernization’ did not hold ground in these countries. Under this context, the modernization theory was developed in order to explain this phenomenon. However, another approach to this argument may be explained by post-development. Although modernization theory has many explanations for why the global south remains poor, post-development theory should also be considered.
Modernization theory based itself on the idea that cultural and economic conditions served as ‘barriers’ to development and were essentially what blocked a country from gaining wealth. The theory also supported a non-communist outlook to poverty in developing nations by suggesting an economic change and the introduction of western values with western culture being coined as more ‘modern’. However, modernization theory had its setback while attempting to explaining development.
To begin, there are no confirmed examples of counties that have followed the exact modernization theory approach to development. Even when considering Rostow’s “5 stages of growth”, no countries have followed it completely. Modernization theory is an old theory that was meant to justify western capitalist countries that were colonial powers and wanted to discredit communism. Also, modernization theory assumes that western civilization is superior to traditional societies. It implies that the traditions of developing countries have little value while compared to western traditions.
Many developed countries have large inequalities and as the level of inequality increases, we see this directly reflected in higher health problems, crime rates and suicide rates (The US). While modernization theory claims the ideals of the west to be greater, this becomes more of a theory based off of international ethics as oppose to one that is based off of empirical reasoning. This is why it is a questionable theory to begin with. Escobar was one of the largest critics of modernization theory and believed that modernization theory was ethnocentric. He argued that it was dismissive of many ancient philosophies and traditions that had worked previously in poorer countries for thousands of years. Moving on from this, this brings us to the post-development approach.
Coincidentally, the person who most heavily criticized modernization theory happens to also be one of the most important authors of post-development. Post development literature takes interest in to the ‘alternatives’ to development as oppose to alternative development. As a result, we are left with a fundamental rejection of development itself. From this point of view, post development focuses on local culture and knowledge and places importance on the solidarity for pluralistic grassroots movements. There were also many other thinkers that aided in the development