Science in Christian Perspective
Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology
Warner Southern College
Lake Wales, FL 33853
From: JASA 36 (December 1984): 162-168.
Two major competing theoretical models of national development in the third world, "modernization" and "dependency," have become prominent during the last several decades. The modernization model is rooted in the growth experiences of Western nations: it is assumed that development will occur in nations as they progress through stages of growth, beginning, in a "traditional society" and arriving at a final stage of high-mass consumption. Third world nations are expected to pass through these stages as technology, skills, and "achievement" attitudes are transferred from the industrialized nations to the lesser-developed ones via development aid and foreign investment. The dependency perspective, on the other hand, involves some sort Of commitment to Marxist assumptions: here it is maintained that the industrialized countries of the West have enriched themselves at the expense of the third world nations first through colonial exploitation and later through capitalism and imperialism. In this case exploitative relations must be broken in order for true development to occur in the lesser-developed countries.
In both cases development is considered to be a transforming process in which nations build better societies through economic and social changes that change individuals and social structures. This paper will present a critique of these models in light of a Christian view of transformation and in terms of how these models compare to actual experiences of development and underdevelopment in the third world. Related themes discussed are the social consequences of the use of technology and ideology on human lives, the difficulties of using these models as predictors of better social orders where human suffering is reduced, and the effects of sin on man's ability to understand the magnitude of human needs in so many different cultural situations. The paper concludes with some comments on the need for Christians working in development to be better influences in the discipline.
Alejandro Portes (1976), a Latin American sociologist, indicates that there are objectives which are common to all national development processes but which are emphasized to different degrees: economically, the gross national product should increase with a concomitant emergence of local decision-making; socially, there should ultimately be a more equitable distribution of income and public access to better housing, nutrition, education, and political participation; and culturally, a new national image should emerge which blends local traditions with a future societal vision without feelings of subordination to external hegemony. These are considered to be pre-requisites for more aesthetic objectives reflected in the philosophy of the New International Economic Order (NIEO): restoration of human dignity and achievement of peace among all peoples and nations. However, the vulnerability of the third world societies to rapid technological change, market fluctuations, and superpower rivalry in the world system compound the difficulties of the transformation process for these countries.
Social scientists have derived theoretical models in an
attempt to evaluate the extent to which nations have achieved
societal transformations that have liberated humans from
oppression and want. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate
two major competing theoretical models from a Christian
viewpoint: modernization and dependency. The former tends
to portray development as an emulation of the capitalistic
growth experiences of Europe and North America that have
produced modern consumer societies. The second involves
some sort of commitment to Marxist assumptions and examines the negative effects of capitalist development on the
poorer countries from a third world perspective; a more
modern society is desired, but it is believed that a socialist
alternative will bring it more in line with local needs. These
models have emerged as a result of research and study of
development processes in many countries, especially those in
the third world.
A Christian View of Transformation
Recently, however, persons in development have questioned the utility of these models for evaluating the tremendous human needs expressed in so many cultural situations (Illich, 1969; Portes, 1976). Both models make judgements about what a future ideal society should be, but the basis for it in each case rests, fundamentally, upon material prerequisites in the process of history. A Christian evaluation is in order because only Biblical themes can reveal the types of transformation necessary which must deal with the root of human depravity that goes deeper than solely material needs (Bragg, 1983). This is necessary for man to be fully liberated and truly human for freedom and dignity to have meaning.
The depraved condition is a result of man's attempt to live autonomously in the universe apart from his sovereign Creator. As a result, his ability to consistently form meaningful human relationships among the diversity of cultures in the world is warped, and this includes his ability to discern the effects of technology use upon his neighbor and the proper use of politics.
From a Biblical point of view true transformation is effected in individuals and society by God who is external to the process of history; this promotes constructive change. Christians, too, have a vision of a better society (Lyon, 1980) which is also a promise: a new heaven and a new earth composed of transformed people from different cultural and historical situations (Rev 19: 1; 22:1-2 1). The promise is based on Christ's overcoming of evil in all its cosmic dimensions by His death on the Cross and bodily resurrection. His compassion for the entire human race-including His enemies-was victoriously displayed at a time that seemed, from the point of view of the world, to be one of defeat and despair. The centrality of the Cross reminds one that total human liberation is spiritual as well as material and is the work of a sovereign Creator (Knapp, 1979). It exceeds the power of human-made models to accurately predict the ushering in of a better social order.
This allows one to see that God is at work transforming the lives of individuals and social structures (Samuel and Sugden, 1981) in history toward the arrival of the new order. However, its ultimate arrival will not be exhausted solely by historical processes (Costas, 1982); it will be accomplished by a supernatural act of God. Nevertheless, man plays a role in the working toward this new order now (albeit imperfectly). On one level this involves the special grace of conversion whereby an individual's coming to Christ not only assures him of being an heir in the new order, but it also gives him the power to empathetically relate to the needs of his neighbors in different cultural contexts in the present; and this includes having a different outlook on the proper use of the world's goods (e.g., technology) and a sensitivity for its effects upon others.
Then there is the means by which God works toward this new order in a more common manner in social structures and individuals inside and outside the Christian community. For example, a whole nation may change its ways as did Israel
Douglas B. Kennard is a PhD candidate in Rural Sociology at The Ohio State University. He spent four years in French-speaking West Africa in the field of development. In addition, he has worked as a social science researcher on the socio-economic impacts of nuclear waste isolation at Battelle Memorial Institute. Presently, Mr. Kennard is at Warner Southern College where he teaches Sociology and works with Hunger Elimination Action Resources Training (HEART), a program supported by Food-for-the-Hungry International for sending Christians to work in the third world.
when it reinstituted proper worship in Jerusalem after Babylonian captivity (Neh 9:1-38; 10:29-39). With God's Word as an ethical foundation positive structural change occurred, social exploitation was arrested, just political rule was reestablished, and a sense of dignity was restored. When Joseph was governor in Egypt, he had the ethics and wisdom from God to implement economic policies in a pagan nation and thereby save its people from severe famine. This included
Modernization pronounces comparative judgements on the quality of all cultures from the terminus Of four centuries Of economic, social, and political development in Europe. To the extent that other cultures do not replicate these same patterns they are blamed as being backward or underdeveloped.
God's people, the Jews, and the Egyptians. The key to proper transformation (from a Christian point of view) is a dynamic and on-going relationship between man and his Creator and with his fellow-man. Man plays a responsible role in the transformation process which includes social, political, and economic development, but God is to be personally acknowledged as the source of change.Modernization and Dependency
After World War II third world nations, many of whom
were emerging from colonialism, looked to the Western
democracies and the socialist bloc as references for their own
development. At the same time the success with which the
Marshall Plan had facilitated quick economic recovery in
Europe encouraged the United States to allocate resources to
overseas development programs in hopes of inducing strong
patterns of growth in the third world; it was hoped that this
would transform these "backward" nations into modern
pluralistic societies and contain the spread of communism.
Other third world nations opted for more socialistic courses of
transformation and today serve as a source of inspiration for
A. The Modernization Model
The modernization model adhered to in its various forms by national leaders and development planners has its philosophical roots in the Western evolutionary tradition of social Darwinism: society, like a biological organism, gradually evolves from a simple to a complex state. This thinking emerged during the last century in the wake of the Enlightenment. Human reason combined with industrial progress created tremendous societal transformations and new wealth. However, it was accomplished at the cost of much human suffering as evidenced by the grim conditions for workers.
Supernatural views on life became marginalized, and God, in the minds of humans, became de-centered as the source of transformation (Schaeffer, 1968). The crowning achievements of European and North American geo-political power were reflected in an uneasy mixture of colonialism and a benevolent (though condescending) "civilizing mission" to non-Caucasian peoples. This legitimized the capitalistic development experience as being the universal standard for all societies. It served as a forerunner to many of today's development strategies in third world countries. In fact, the use of the terms, "underdeveloped" and "developed" to characterize third world and industrialized nations respectively is often an indication of evolutionist thinking.
An assumption of the modernization model is that underdevelopment is equivalent to backwardness and is a starting point for all countries. At the societal level this is exemplified by Walter W. Rostow (1961) who uses the development experiences of Europe and North America as the prime reference points for his five stages-of-growth model. Accordingly, any society begins in a traditional agrarian or preNewtonian stage in which entrepreneurship and technological innovation are virtually non-existent. The next three stages are the pre-conditioning for take-off, the take-off, and the drive to maturity; during these periods progressive leaders emerge and make investments in agriculture, factories, and transportation. This occurs over many decades or for a century or more. Meanwhile, the agricultural population decreases and there is a convergence of available skilled labor and more technological innovations which are pushing the society into sustained development, The traditional sectors of society become transformed and made part of an integrated modern order as new ideas diffuse outward to these sectors. The last stage is one of high mass-consumption and is considered to be the most desirable. It is characterized by the corporate welfare state which should provide equitably for all social groups with minimal conflict.
At the level of the individual, a person's values and nature are supposedly transformed as society evolves through these stages. Modern man is defined in contradistinction to what is traditional: urban as opposed to agrarian; secular in contrast to religious and fatalistic; desiring modern media rather than ritual; individualistic as opposed to collectivistic; and appreciating pluralistic democracy and factory organization rather than an autocratic caste system (Inkeles and Smith, 1974; Kahl, 1974). Modern persons are also expected to have strong individual desires to achieve similar to those found in the cultures of Western Protestant countries (McClelland, 1961) and an empathetic attitude toward change which allows them to acquire new social roles (Lerner, 1958).
Such persons in the third world are often designated as change agents" through whom new ideas are transmitted to so-called "tradition-bound" people. In many agricultural programs, for example, it is assumed that rural peasants will adopt externally-introduced modern farming techniques when it is demonstrated that they can increase their yields and incomes as well as their knowledge. Consequently, as they abandon counter-productive cultural and superstitious practices, inequalities between rural and urban areas should decrease; in a like manner as similar changes take place simultaneously throughout societies of lesser-developed nations, inequalities between these and the more developed nations should be reduced. Practically speaking, this philosophy of change has been embodied in the agricultural development programs of the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) which have been patterned after the experience of modernized agriculture in the United States (Rogers, 1962).
The modernization model assumes that the burden of change rests on the third world nations themselves with little or no cost to the more industrialized countries. Furthermore, there is the belief that all change is unilinear and that progress is inevitable; an innate goodness in man should arise in the context of an a priori historical process of growth and technological breakthroughs. This should transform man so that he will act responsibly in the use of technology toward his neighbor. The achievement and role-playing attitudes are essentially self-centered.
While the development experiences associated with this model have benefitted some groups of people in third world countries, proponents of dependency rightly point out that it ignores inequalities that have resulted from them.B. The Dependency Model
By the mid-1960's it was becoming quite clear to many social scientists in lesser-developed nations that several decades of aid and investment from the Western nations were not really transforming these countries into modern replicas of the United States or Europe, Rather, inequalities between nations had increased directly with efforts to modernize in accordance with the Western development experience. This gave birth to the dependency perspective.
Borrowing from Marxist theory, dependency proponents have argued that there are structural inequalities in the world capitalist system (Wallerstein, 1974) that has penetrated the third world since the early 16th century when European nations first plundered Latin America, Africa, and Asia for precious metals, spices, and slaves; inequitable bartering arrangements imposed upon local societies by Europeans eroded their social organization and paved the way for direct colonial rule; exploitation has intensified in the 20th century because each country is dependent upon earnings from the export of one or a few agricultural commodities, minerals, or petroleum, the operations of which are controlled by foreign corporations under the label of "free trade." (Chilcote and Edelstein, 1974). According to dialectical logic, the historical presence of capitalism has caused many third world countries to remain stagnant in a "pre-capitalist" phase (Quijano, 1982). Underdeveloped nations are really "peripheral" regions containing reserves of cheap labor and raw materials which are drained away for the development of the "core" countries in Europe and North America (Amin, 1977). Thus, the development of the Western nations takes place at the expense of underdevelopment of the third world (Frank, 1969).
Profits not repatriated out of these countries are reinvested in local industry that is capital -intensive and absorbs a small percentage of local labor or rural infrastructure that helps only the larger farmers. The elite classes benefiting from this development are often associated with politically repressive right-wing regimes which have the backing of the U.S. military or former colonial power (Cardozo and Faletto 1979; Evans and Timberlake, 1980; and Gedicks, 1977). Overseas development programs are seen as merely reinforcing this status quo.
An illustration of this is the diffusion of modern farm technology to "progressive" farmers. Such farmers often have the income and material requirements (e.g., large landholdings) to take advantage of new innovations (Havens and Flinn, 1976). This causes the prices of crops to drop due to increased supplies; land-holdings increase in size with each new round of profit generated (Brown, 1981), and poorer
The distorted views of history presented in each of the models relate to a false concept about the source of transformation, namely that it resides in the material order of things whose movement is conditioned by historical laws that exist independently in the universe.
Dependency proponents also argue that a break with the world capitalist system and the undertaking of some sort of a socialist solution will bring about the transformations that are necessary for creating a more humane society in which a "new man" will emerge who is freed from selfishness. While the dependency model yields helpful insights as to the exploitative nature of capitalism in many lesser-developed countries,, it is flawed, like the modernization model, in a number of ways: dependency and capitalism have not always produced underdevelopment in the third world; dependency is not always caused by Western nations or by capitalism; and a socialist solution no more guarantees the ushering in of a society that is more humane than does Rostow's stages-of-growth model.
In the evaluation of the effectiveness of each model important questions need to be asked. Do the experiences of development and underdevelopment in different cultural and historical situations bear out the predictions of these models and bring in a social order where man is truly liberated and all his needs are met? And then how do the models approximate (imperfectly, of course) Biblical criteria for a society in which human suffering is reduced, leaders rule justly, and there is neighborly consideration in the use of technology? These issues are touched on below.
Some would assert that the modernization model fits the development experiences of South Korea and Taiwan because these have exhibited the neo-classical transformation patterns similar to those of the Western countries: agriculture has become modernized in both nations; local industries have absorbed people leaving agriculture; each nation has had an availability of indigenous skilled labor; and growth with social equity has occurred, particularly in Taiwan (Barrett and Whyte, 1982; Sedjo, 1976; and Westphal, 1982). However, a closer look indicates that this is actually due to favorable historical circumstances in these countries, circumstances neither experienced by Western nations nor by most countries in the third world: legacies of sound rural infrastructure left by Japanese colonial rule; the ability of local industries to compete side-by-side with foreign capital; and commitments to strong economies by national leaders who felt threatened by communist neighbors (Barrett and Whyte, 1982; Westphal, 1982). Development has occurred so fast that the stages in Rostow's growth model would so grossly overlap as to render its application meaningless.
Although both countries are far more desirable places to live in than either of their communist neighbors, the modern man of South Korea and Taiwan hardly reflects the restored human image that is promised in Scripture. South Korea's nationalistic vision has been tied to a series of right-wing political regimes which have repressed freedoms-even of its students abroad in foreign universities. While many of the farmers have benefitted materially from land reform and new technology, they have had little opportunity to express their opinions in the government- initiated cooperatives which are supposed to be for their benefit (Kihl and Bark, 1981). In Taiwan, growth has occurred so rapidly that a strong materialistic orientation has overshadowed ethical issues among youth: in one study, for example, 78 per cent of the people interviewed maintained that there were no right or wrong ways to earn money, only easy and hard ways; and that it is legitimate to use others for the sake of one's own career (Li, 1983).
The dependency model seems to challenge the inapplicability of the modernization model in much of Latin America and Africa by focusing on the negative effects of capitalism. In the West African Republic of Senegal, the government merely uses the weak rural infrastructure inherited from French colonial rule to promote "progressive" farming and better health practices. This has produced a new elite class of peasants in religious brotherhoods while the condition of the average peasant has worsened with drought and inflation (Amin, 1977). Senegal is more dependent than ever on France for the sale of its one export crop, groundmits, which the latter purchases at a price above that of the world market.
Dakar, its capital, is an urban enclave composed of government offices, service industries, and foreign banks which mostly serve the needs of a bloated civil service and an international clientele (Cruise O'Brien, 1979).
In Colombia a similar situation exists where large-scale coffee production for export has required large amounts of imported equipment. While these larger farmers have benefitted from new technology and credit services, land reform
Under both of these models lies the common assumption that man is alone in the universe, and that he works out his destiny in accordance with these historical laws.
However, dependency and capitalism do not always produce negative consequences in the third world, as the cases of Taiwan and South Korea demonstrate. Moreover, the emergence of the OPEC cartel indicates that the richer third world countries are not above coercing energy-poor countries like Chad or Niger or are not capable of affecting the economies of the oil-dependent Western nations.
Then there are the limitations of Marxist categories for analyzing development and underdevelopment. Poverty stricken areas of the third world are labelled "pre-capitalist" while the urban centers are called "imperialist" in order to conceptualize the very real inequalities that afflict the lesser developed nations. But, according to Marxian dialectics, this terminology necessarily "justifies" the existence of a class struggle in order to make credible the inevitability of a socialist solution for development. Certain economic and social policies inevitably follow in accordance with an inf lexible ideology, but these do not produce the better society or the "new man" hoped for. In the Republic of Guinea, for example, President S6kou Tour6 sought to abolish capitalism in an attempt to wipe out all types of exploitative relations among human beings. The result was that with the entrepreneurs abolished and the economy completely nationalized the black market generated more revenue than the "official" economy; astronomical inflation made the cost of basic necessities like rice and onions in the local markets prohibitively expensive for the average citizen. The blame, however, was deflected to "counterrevolutionary" sabotage in the national system (Adamolekun, 1976).
Like the Rostowian model, Marxist categories are symbolic abstractions whose logic is mostly rhetorical (Kirk, 1976); because their basis is solely a material one, they are not adequate for understanding the ways many people suffer in situations of underdevelopment. In socialist Cuba the poorer segments of society, particularly people in rural areas, who suffered the most before the Revolution undoubtedly have benefitted from the guaranteed health and housing facilities that the government provides. What is seldom mentioned is that the "fraternal arrangement" Cuba has with the Soviet Union is necessary for obtaining the imports in order to meet the objectives of egalitarianism under Marxist-Leninism. This is another form of dependence which, when combined with absolutized ideological guidelines, leads to total state control over all aspects of society. This makes it difficult for Cuba to provide anything for her people beyond basic material needs. (Halprin, 1981).
When combined with Marxist solutions by underdevelopment, dependency locates the source of all ills in capitalism and, by close association, in the politics (past and present) of the Western countries. Paradoxically, the ideological commitment to egalitarianism is so strong that an elite-led totalitarian government is necessary to fulfill the socialist dream at a tremendous cost of human freedom and creativity (Kirk, 1976).B. A Christian Critique
While each model provides valuable insights into the phenomena of development and underdevelopment, neither can fulfill its claims to bring in a new social order where humans do not mistreat each other. Both models present distorted views of the historical processes of change.
Modernization pronounces comparative judgements on the quality of all cultures from the terminus of four centuries of economic, social, and political development in Europe. To the extent that other cultures do not replicate these same patterns they are blamed as being backward or underdeveloped. Western modernization is treated as a strand of history autonomous from the rest of the world.
On the other hand, Christians should know that all cultures are part of God's creation; and He is dynamically involved in weaving aspects of them together toward His final objective. Europe could have never developed her technology without the rich contributions from Arabic cultures, trade with the Far East, and contact with the Sudanic kingdoms of subSaharan Africa. Even Israel which was God's own chosen nation developed her culture in the context of powerful Near Eastern empires like Egypt and Assyria. God sent Jonah (who went reluctantly!) to preach the Good News to the Ninevites. God did not forget about these peoples but prepared a place for them in His ultimate redemption plan whereby they would partake, along with Israel, in providing a "blessing in the midst of the earth" (Is 19:21-25).
The dependency model presents a view of injustice merely from the perspective of the third world, Leaders in lesserdeveloped countries who find it convenient to exonerate themselves and their societies from the responsibilities in their own development processes by attributing all difficulties to the colonial past or to "neo-colonialism" distort justice; and it affects the well-being of their own people as well. There is no assurance that oppressed societies will act any more justly than their former oppressors. The northern kingdom of Israel under King Jeroboam lived in great material prosperity while imposing heavy rent and taxes on the poor. Yet these Israelites, along with the rest of the Hebrew groups, had at one time been an oppressed minority in Egypt (Amos 5:10, 11; 8:4-14). Moreover, when dependency is integrated with Marxist categories of analysis, it taps into a world-view which, like capitalism, is a product of the European Enlightenment (Lyon, 1979).
The distorted views of history presented in each of the models relate to a false concept about the source of transformation, namely that it resides in the material order of things whose movement is conditioned by historical laws that exist independently in the universe. This applies to the modernization model which claims to produce a modern consumerist man. It also applies to the dependency model which predicts inevitable negative consequences of capitalism and endorses socialism as being capable of creating a new human being devoid of selfishness. Under both of these models lies the common assumption that man is alone in the universe, and that he works out his destiny in accordance with these historical laws. From a Christian point of view, however, only God stands above history and is the source of transformation whereas humans are culturally and historically bound in space and time.
The false assumptions concerning human autonomy are a manifestation of man's sinful fallen condition. This reflects his depravity. He demonstrates his rebellion against God when he casts any historical experience as it may have occurred for any one society into an abstract model to serve as an ultimate standard for a better social order. The logical result of this is that ethnocentricity and self -righteousness consistently hobble man's ability to truly perceive the needs of his fellow-man in different concrete situations. For example, in the early 1960's deep-bore tube wells, funded with American money, were sunk in the West African Sahel without full consideration of nomadic transhumance patterns or local customs regarding water-use rights. This aggravated the already deteriorating ecological conditions being caused by drought which took the lives of many innocent people (Sheets and Morris, 1976). Or some leaders in third world countries who follow the logical course of the dependency model disassociate themselves so completely from the colonial legacy or the world system that they forfeit any positive attributes thereof: schools, hospitals, and factories deteriorate because no attempt is made to train local people to operate them; and foreign technicians are not welcome unless they share the "correct" ideological views of the country's leaders. A false sense of human dignity is achieved because the cost is often autarky, the stifling of human creativity, and political oppression.
Is there an alternative solution along Christian lines? A "Christian model" of development would be inappropriate because, being designed by fallen creatures, it would suffer flaws as does any other model. While rejecting the assumptions of modernization and dependency, one must still learn from the actual experiences, both positive and negative, which led to their conception. In order to avoid selling oneself out to either model, a better way should be sought. Portes (1976), provides a clue when he maintains that national development efforts need a guiding ethic for transformation. The Christian knows that such an ethic must go beyond mere worldly means for creating an improved society (Knapp, 1979). God has broken into history at various times to provide man with ethical directives concerning the management of the creation, and this includes neighborly relations. This is evidenced by the giving of the ten commandments at Mount Sinai and Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. The Christian who is working as a development program planner in an international organization or who is a researcher specializing in third world issues has God's Word and His Spirit to ethically discern the true needs of people in different cultural situations and to empathize with them (Samuel and Sugden, 1981). He or she will be able to spot ethnocentric biases in programs which increase class differences or ignore traditional cultural patterns which could otherwise be integrated with new ideas (Portes, 1976) or which endorse worldly utopias. By focusing on the centrality of the Cross, we know that God is working at different levels of transformation toward a promised end result. But when God no longer serves as the main reference point for transformation, some relativistic ideology or historical experience is introduced as a false pro forma for change; but it cannot provide true human understanding and vision (Is 1:3, Prov 29:18).
For those who are working in missions and Christian service organizations there are a variety of opinions as to how to design outreach programs in the third world. Determining the proper combinations of evangelism, political involvement, technical assistance or provision of relief is a sensitive issue and goes beyond the scope of this paper. However, Christians involved in development can influence, directly and indirectly, the policies of international agencies and national planning ministries to bring about social, economic, and political transformations in their societies which will approximate God's criteria: ". . . to loosen the bonds of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free.... to divide ... bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; ... Then your light will break out like the dawn and your recovery will speedily spring forth; . . . . " (Is 58:6-8).
Scriptural references in this paper are from the New American Standard Bible.
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