The Journal of Institute of Development
Development Studies, Studies, NWFP Agricultural
Vol. VIII, 1986,1987 University, Peshawar.


Since the end of World War II, we have been experiencing a worldwide struggle for the improvement of living conditions in the so-called developing countries. At the beginning, there was little query as to the causes of underdevelopment; the newly independent countries as well as United Nations bodies and industrialized countries tried to promote development by applying measures like the introduction of know-how through the assignment of experts, the expansion of education, the development of infrastructure, etc., i.e., they followed the example of the industrialized countries. In the course of time it became obvious that this was more or less a treatment of symptoms instead of causes, and the gap gradually widened between the developed and less developed countries of this world.

During the early period of development efforts there was little discussion on the historical causes and the real nature of underdevelopment. Theoretical considerations at this time of "cold war" explained the situation of underdevelopment and the path for development from the viewpoint of western or socialist metropoles. Only in more recent times has the viewpoint of developing countries gained momentum in development theory. This has great practical implications: development theory offers the justification for policies. The answer to the question "What is development?" determines which strategies, policies, projects, what type of industry, or what organization of agriculture should be considered to be in line with development goals or detrimental to these. Different positions in development policy are based on differences in underlying development theories.

There are a great number of explanations for underdevelopment and concepts of development. This paper tries to introduce the reader to the most important theoretical explanations of underdevelopment and development without aiming at completeness. As regards its presentation, there are several possibilities of organizing the paper. Some authors organize the theories along the scientific disciplines which are basic for the analysis and differentiate between economic theories, sociological theories, demographic theories, climate theories, etc.* (BOHNET 3). Others differentiate between socialistic and market-economy oriented theories because these two groups have a different way of analysing and diagnosing the causes of underdevelopment, and they are distinct as to their opinion on the possibilities of reform or revolution with a view to influencing the development process (KEBSCHULL 11). In this paper, the theories are organized according to their basic conception of the causes of underdevelopment.


* The author is Professor and Director, Institute of Rural Development University of Goettingen, West Germany.

* Demographic and climate thories are not dealt with in this paper because of their lesser importance.