Dependency Theory Example

Please explain dependency theory by applying it to a country.

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Dependency theory essentially argues that less-developed countries will be unable to develop because the rich world uses them as the equivalent of colonies.  That is, the rich world uses the less-developed countries as sources of raw materials and of cheap labor but never lets those countries get to where they can have major domestic industries of their own.

To understand this, think, for instance, of Mexico.  For much of its history, Mexico was used as a source of raw materials for the US.  The US, for example, bought copper from Mexican mines while selling finished goods to Mexico.  Nowadays, Mexico is a source of cheap labor.  This is why there are so many factories, especially in border areas, all meant to provide cheap goods for the US market.  At the same time, Mexico cannot develop its own domestic industries.  If, for example, a Mexican car maker tried to get started, it would never be able to compete with foreign car makers who could offer lower prices than a Mexican firm could at first.

For this reason, development theory says, less-developed countries like Mexico will tend to be unable to catch up to the rich world.

thetall's profile pic

thetall | (Level 3) Educator

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Dependency theory is the perception that the world system is developed such that the developed countries benefit at the expense of the developing countries. This happens when the developed countries use resources derived from the underdeveloped countries to enrich themselves. The theory presumes that the wealthy nations are actively involved in ensuring the status quo is maintained, whereby the state of dependence by underdeveloped countries continues. This not only guarantees the developed nations a market for their products and services but also access to raw materials and cheap human resources. Those in support of changing this situation presented by the dependency theory argue that it is important for underdeveloped countries to practice some level of protectionism with regard to the economy by controlling their imports and exports. This idea has, however, been criticized with other theorists citing high levels of corruption within state-owned firms and the lack of competition due to such protectionism efforts.

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