Modernization Theory: The Development Ladder Essay

1451 words - 6 pages

Modernisation theory has been a dominant theory since post-World War II (McMichael 2012:5) to describe development and social change. It is structured and outlined through five different stages of 'development ladder' proposed by Walt Whitman Rostow in The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto. (1961:4) The first premise of modernisation theory reflected by 'development ladder' is that development happened in a sequential process through stage by stage while the second premise underpinned by ‘development ladder’ is conformity towards West's values and norms. However, these two premises are found to be problematic as they are neglecting the differences in societies and assuming that the 'development ladder' system is applicable to all societies. Thus, Rostow's 'development ladder' is highly challenged as it gathers a lot of critiques.
Rostow's five stages of economic growth begin with the traditional society. As described by Rostow, the underdevelopment is naturalised in this structure with the evidence of constrained production means such as technology. In this part, the society applies subsistence economy that technically results in small margins of productivity such as hunter-gatherer society (Sahlins 1972:1) Undesired to do nature exploitation, Rostow viewed society at this stage as restrained from progress. The second phase following the previous stage is preconditions of take-off. Economic growth starting to take place and is essential to justify the means within good definition. The society begins to implement the manufacturing of products while at the same time foreign intervention by advanced societies such as through colonialism is needed to bring about change in one's society. The next step towards modernisation is take-off stage. In this stage, the progress or growth is no longer foreign but it is now deliberated as natural. This is the part where obstructions to achieve development are overcome whether in social, political or in technological aspects. The drive to maturity stage happens approximately 40 years after the take-off stage ends. The society should be able to employ the newly improvised techniques on variety of its resources compared to the previous original methods in several industries of production. This section is where the society has the capability to just create anything and everything with polished skill and advanced technology according to Rostow.(1961:4) When the society reaches the age of high mass-consumption stage, it denotes the final stage in 'development ladder'. The focus of the production has been changed towards sturdy consumer goods and services as the increased resources are able to be allocated for social benefits and security. In the meantime, the income and productivity are increased as well as the number of conversions to high skilled jobs. This last stage is the main goal of development and modernisation that must be realised by surpassing all the former stages. 'Development ladder'...

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