Monday, December 11

The Economic Resistance of The Developing World: Methods And Ideas

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Since the massive wave of decolonization after World War II, the “third world,” now called the “developing world,” has found itself, with few exceptions, still under the thumb of powerful economies. It seems that there is a sense of resignation: that the third world must compete with the major powers or merely perish. Yet, strategies of resistance still remain.

It remains true that formerly third world states like Taiwan or South Korea have done very well, having long since joined the ranks of the first world, industrialized and vaguely capitalist economies. The bulk of states in Africa, Asia and Latin America, however, remain on the margins of global production.

Over the decades, the third world has attempted many ways of resistance. This resistance, broadly speaking, has been designed to create the internal conditions necessary for the country to develop itself. In other words, the country, disadvantaged against the developed world, wants to protect its industries and develop according to the needs of its own population rather than the demands of global markets.

One method, largely irrelevant today, is the formation of some variant of Soviet socialism. Most of those states, including Ethiopia and Cuba, have remained poor and marginalized. During the Cold War, these states were able to count on the assistance of the Soviet Union in areas of economic and social development. But even there, such assistance was spotty and often inappropriate for the countries involved.

What has become more important, especially in the recent world of the Non-Aligned Movement has been a strong state, matched by regional cooperation in trade. This is slowly developing into an area where the third world can begin building its own institutions rather than consistently requiring the approval of more developed powers.

Writers in social history such as Haywood Alker, Jr have called this approach “Collective Self Reliance.” The point here is to create a large and diversified market that can be used by the productive capacity of the states involved. This, in turn, eliminates dependency on outside powers and serves to localize development. Ultimately, this approach means collective dependency in an arena of equality, rather than the radical dependency on more developed states, which distorts and manipulates local development.

Alker also makes reference to “Corporatist Authoritarianism.” Here, the point is the same: the purpose is to create a market that is more or less insulated from the demands of the developed world. What this requires is a strong state, a charismatic leader and a bureaucratic organization of production that can be “targeted” to specific areas of the economy. Like in South Korea, this state organization might be necessary, but it remains a temporary expedient until local industries can compete internationally.

Whichever the approach, many in the third world find simply following western methods unacceptable. Social independence requires local forms of development in order to respond to local, rather than global and dependent, needs.


Alker, Haywood. “Dialectical Foundations of Global Disparities.” International Studies Quarterly, 1981: 69-98


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