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Summarize the arguments of dependency theory. Describe the steps a dependency theorist would advocate to "improve" the condition of low-income countries and the whole world. Critique dependency theory, and then present positive evaluations of the theory.
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Society: The Basics, Canadian Edition


Edition: 6th
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Dependency theory explains global inequality in terms of the historical exploitation of low-income nations by high-income ones. Through colonialism, high-income nations became developed and they underdeveloped low-income societies. High-income countries maintain their advantage through neocolonialism; low-income nations continue to support high-income ones by providing low-cost labour and a vast market for industrial products. Because of narrow, export-oriented economies, a lack of industrial capacity, and foreign debt, low-income nations remain dependent on high-income nations. According to this view, the condition of low-income countries might be improved by limiting their relations with high-income countries (although policy implications are unclear on this point) or through more equal distribution of wealth.
Dependency theory is criticized on the following grounds:
- It wrongly treats wealth as if no one gets richer without someone else getting poorer.
- It overlooks the fact that many of the lowest-income nations have had little contact with high-income nations.
- It points to a single factor (capitalism) as the cause of global inequality, ignoring the role that low-income nations play in their own stagnation.
- It downplays the economic dependency created by the former Soviet Union.
- It offers only vague solutions to global poverty.
Dependency theory is praised on the following grounds:
- It emphasizes the importance of global relations
- It sees global inequality as a political issue.
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