The study of development in Latin America has been approached from a variety of academic disciplines. International Political Economy scholars have provided a number of different approaches for studying, analyzing and understanding the political and institutional constrains that have shaped the development of Latin American countries. They have also incorporated into the analysis variables such as the influence of international organizations and the economic and class history, and its relation with one of the principal characteristics of Latin American countries: the disparity between the wealthy and the poor.
Throughout this work, I intend to summarize and review four of the most representative theories that have helped shape the study of the economic development of Latin America: Hegemonic Stability, Dependency, Class Analysis and Neoliberalism.
The need for a more accurate theoretical framework, [than modernism] to analyze and interpret the causes for development and underdevelopment, and a possible way of explaining the unrelenting poverty of the underdeveloped countries gave rise to the Dependency Theory.
Under the umbrella of this theory is the acknowledgement that the nation-state forms part of an International System, and is not as an individual, truly independent entity. The system consists of two sets of states, generally described as core (developed) and satellite (underdeveloped) countries.
This theory states very clearly two facts: a) the economic dynamic that results from the relationship between core and satellite countries does not necessarily translate into growth in the poorer, less industrialized entities, but instead tends to intensify the unequal developing patterns, and b) developed countries were never underdeveloped, but undeveloped. Andre Gunder Frank challenged the idea that underdeveloped countries were in an early stage of development by stating that underdevelopment is ”… the historical product of past and continuing economic and other relations between the satellite underdeveloped and the now developed metropolitan countries”, and that capitalism has indeed reach even the most marginalized communities.
Under this particular view underdevelopment in Latin America has its roots in Colonialism, which generated a specific economic structure and a very particular dynamic (always determined by the economic interests and needs of the core region) between the core and the peripheral territories that resulted in, among other things, export dependence, rigid class hierarchy and unequal exchange opportunities. After the colonized countries became independent, the relationships they had undertaken did not change. The elite that were now in charge followed an agenda that maintained these relationships and favored special interests that not only did not help to end the dependency to the core, but in many cases allowed for the rise of authoritarian governments.
Dependency Theory is a critique, and an alternative to...