13.06.2008 Feature Article

Globalization and the development of underdevelopment of the third world

Globalization and the development of underdevelopment of the third world
13.06.2008 LISTEN

There are two contending opinions on the issue of globalization. There are some observers who believe that globalization has brought rapid prosperity to the underdeveloped countries while others argue that globalization serves the needs of the metropolitan countries at the expense of the peripheral countries. This paper posits that globalization is economic terrorism. Using a dependency theory to analyze the asymmetric relationships between the developed and the underdeveloped countries, the writer applies some economic indicators to highlight the widening gap between the two worlds.

In doing so, it is argued that the socio-economic and political structures of the peripheral countries are subordinated via globalization to foster the economic interest (the superstructure) of the metropolitan countries.

Although several studies have been done on the issue of globalization, there has been no systematic study done to link the activities of both the governmental and nongovernmental organizations in terms of their impact in the international political economy.

This holistic approach is an attempt to fill that vacuum. Drawing from the experience of Nigeria and some other underdeveloped countries in enhancing our understanding of how globalization accelerates the underdevelopment of the periphery, the roles played by the multinational corporations, Western media technology, the lone superpower, World Trade Organization, and International Monetary Bank/World Bank, are subjected to the test of empirical reality and logical plausibility.


Globalization (a homogenization of global economic, social and political order) is not synonymous with internationalization (a collaboration of nationstates in their pursuit of mutual interests). It is argued in this paper that the ideal of a universal civilization is a recipe for unending conflicts in the world. It is time to resolve the contradiction between the need to foster multiculturalism and diversity on the one hand and the promotion of globalization on the other hand.

To fully understand the system of globalization, there is the need to revisit dependency theory. Dependency theory evolved in Latin America during the 1960s and later it found favor in some writings about Africa and Asia. Since both orthodox as well as the radical writers have assimilated dependency into their interpretation of development and underdevelopment, resulting in considerable confusion, effort is made here to distinguish the nature of dependency that the underdeveloped countries are subjected to from what the orthodox scholars may claim.

Contemporary perspectives of dependency reveal the contrasting forms of dominance and dependence among the nations of the capitalist world. A Brazilian social scientist, Theotonio Dos Santos, lucidly affirms that:

By dependence we mean a situation in which the economy of certain countries is conditioned by the development and expansion of another economy to which the former is subjected. The relation of interdependence between two or more economies, and between these and world trade, assumes the forms of dependence when some countries (the dominant ones) can do this only as a reflection of that expansion, which can have ...a negative effect on their immediate development.1

In other words, because of the unequal political, military, and economic relationships between a dependent economy and the dominant external economy, the structure of the former is shaped as much or more by the requirements of the external economy as by its own domestic needs.

The domestic political economy is not only shaped by the interaction with a more powerful external economy, but is also shaped by the process. Indeed, the economies of the dependence would be impossible to maintain without the existence and the support of the external factors. A Chilean economist, Osvaldo Sunkel, captures this perspective:

Foreign factors are seen not as external but as intrinsic to the system, with manifold and sometimes hidden or subtle political, financial, economic, technical and cultural effects inside the underdeveloped country... Thus, the concept of “dependencia” links the postwar evolution of capitalism internationally to the discriminatory nature of the local process of development, as we know it.

Access to the means and benefits of development is selective rather than spreading them. The process tends to ensure self-reinforcing accumulation of the privilege for special groups as well as the continued existence of a marginal class.2

Another fundamental concern of the dependency theory revolves around the notion that the underdeveloped countries are referred to, by many, as “developing” countries as if to say their development is evolutionary.

The now developed (center) countries have never had the same historical experience compared to that of the impoverished countries of the world. Whereas the underdeveloped countries have experienced the phenomena of slavery and colonialism, it is not the case with the developed countries.

The argument is that historical situations of dependency have conditioned contemporary underdevelopment in Africa, Asia and Latin America.3 Thus, underdevelopment is not an original state as some apologists would have us believe.