In reality, resources are not evenly distributed. They are unbalanced, polarized, and arranged in whimsical disarray. Whilst some regions of the world are endowed, others are deprived. Many African, Asian, and Latin American countries are referred to as developing or third world countries. This is an indication of the existence of developed countries such as Europe whose development is judged to be higher than those of third world countries hence the study of the development and underdevelopment of nations. In this paper, an experiment in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa’s development would be made.
Development is the positive growth which includes both the qualitative and quantitative improvement in the life of people in a society. Its meaning is evolutional dating back from the 1940s where it was first linked with a former US president Harry Truman’s speech by writers such as Cowen and Shenton (1995). In the 1950s and 1960s, Arthur Lewis an economist of Indian origin equated development to economic growth and the indexes at play was GNP, Per capita income, and industrialization. Economic planners at this time were only looking at the capacity of economies to generate and sustain an annual increase in its GDP at rates of perhaps 5% to 7% and this can be achieved by altering production by more industry and less agriculture.
The shortcomings of this perspective such as dwelling much on economic indices like per capita income can be misleading because 80% of the population may command an insignificant proportion of the economic cake say 20% and the remaining 20% of the people controlling 80% of the wealth. Senator “GDP does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of our education or the joy of our play, it does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our courage nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile” (Senator Kennedy,1968). There is also a focus on the service and manufacturing industry at the expense of agricultural development. This led to the creation of dual economies thus a modern and a traditional economy but all attention shifted to modern economic development. All these limitations gave birth to a reformulation of the meaning of development in 1970 which had development being defined in terms of poverty reduction, inequality, and unemployment. In 1973, Dudley Seer argued that development shouldn’t be a quantitative statistic of income, employment, and inequality but unnecessary deaths and hopelessness. Supporters of this perspective said development should improve the quality of life by enhancing higher incomes, education, nutrition, a clean environment, equality of opportunity, freedom, and rich cultural life. Whilst this approach has recognized the shortcomings of earlier approaches, it has also been heavily criticized as being Eurocentric.
1980 was a dawn of a new meaning to the concept development, to mean freedom as popularized by Amartya Sen. He said that GNP, per capita income, industrialization is good as means to an end called freedom. However, freedom depends on factors such as social and economic arrangements, political and civil rights. It didn’t end there, the United Nations Development Project report of 2001 invented the human development index to fill a critical gap created by the concentration of economic issues. It defines development using 3 indicators: Decent standard of living, knowledge, and a long and healthy life. The emergence of the MDGs then SDGs contributed much to the meaning and state of development in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and many African countries. You may have realized that development has meaning only when it increases opportunities for every member of society to lead a long, healthy productive, and satisfying life.
All these approaches have a lot to tell on Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Asia. When one takes a look at the Human Development Index (HDI) it indicates where the country stands and how much further it has to go to attain goals set. Thus, an average life expectancy of 85 years, access to education, and a decent standard of living.
There are distinguishing features of the developed (Europe) and the third world countries. Whereas Europe is highly industrialized, technologically developed and urbanized, the level of technological development and industrialization in developing countries is relatively low. Urbanization and industrialization have a long history in that they move together but the current urbanization in developing countries has little to do with industrialization. It is however worthy of note that sub-urbanization and gentrification are taking place in developed countries. There is also efficient agriculture and large-scale production of crops in European countries compared to Asia, Latin America, and African countries.
When one takes a look at the third world countries relative to Europe with modernization approach, it is easily observable that in third world countries many people are poor and live in a state that I choose to describe as deplorable because they have no adequate food to live on and have no idea where their next meal is coming from, many even eat chicken only during Christmas seasons, no running water and have to travel long distances only to get unsafe water from streams and ponds, no modern and adequate places to dwell, high rate of unemployment, people who cannot pay their children’s school fees and whose children drop out of school, whose children die unnecessarily from preventable diseases like malaria, cholera, diarrhea, who are illiterate and ignorant with poor health and low life expectancy, less or no leisure and recreational activities and their countries record high rates of infant and maternal mortality and less formalized of the informal sectors of their economies. on the other hand, these conditions such as availability of modern and adequate dwelling places, modern toilet facilities, uninterrupted supply of electricity, efficient transportation systems, high rate of literacy, access to computer and internet facilities, good health and longer living, more leisure and recreational activities are available in Developed areas like Europe. Their economies and their informal sectors are highly formalized, with a high level of division of labor and specialization. This gap between the developed and underdeveloped explains the help extended to third world countries because resources available in less developed countries are needed to make life better in so-called developed countries. poverty in third world countries is said to be invented because the only time Africans see themselves as poor is when they compare themselves to European countries and that was described as too westernized and Eurocentric by the radical dependency. In fact, it was even argued that African, Asia, and Latin American countries are worse as huge loans have been taken in the name of development (Mahanty,1991: Escobar 1995). Thus, some writers such as Dickenson et al. (1985) and Marcus (2008) attribute underdevelopment to Colonialism and argue that Colonialism created a pattern of unequal relationships between a European core and a dependent periphery. This is to cut short the history of modernization and dependency approach to development.
Other scholars such as Dickenson et al. (1985) also note that at the time of the European ‘age of discovery’, (late C15th) some indigenous people in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Australasia had highly developed sophisticated cultures and technologies. In Latin America, the Aztec empire had developed a complex, highly stratified society with a nobility that held military; skilled craftsmen, intensive agriculture, sophisticated urban system. In Western South America, the Inca empire had agricultural techniques that included irrigation; a well-developed road network that linked the widely scattered rural areas to the imperial center.
Thus, by the time European expansion began, the now Third World already had a highly complex civilization with high levels of cultural, social, and technical development. Dickenson et al. (1985) argue that some of these areas were not undeveloped or underdeveloped but rather pre-developed because they had high degrees of cultural, political, and economic development before the arrival of Europeans.
OWUSU AGYEMANG FEDELIX