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Neo-Marxist theories of development and beyond

Leaver, Richard Lawrence (1981) Neo-Marxist theories of development and beyond. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis is concerned with the origins, patterns of growth, disputes over and inherent limitations of neo-marxist theory as applied to the analysis of the problem of underdevelopment. The starting point is the work of A. G. Frank, whose originality lay in his structural critique of the liberal and marxist orthodoxies of his day—orthodoxies against which he posed the structural concept of ’the world capitalist system’ as a more adequate explanatory and practical guide.

It is argued that Frank's work is best understood as a reversion to a form of structural theorizing analogous to that which, fifty years ago, distinguished the British School of social anthropologists as a school. They, like Frank, attacked the evolutionary theories of their day by advancing an analytical framework which was totalizing without ever breaking free of empiricist epistemology. Although this is a powerful manner of establishing a critique of evolutionary theories, it ultimately flounders upon its own inabilities to apprehend sources and directions of social change.

Over the last ten years, Frank's neo-marxism has been the subject of much debate within radical circles. Some authors, such as Amin and Wallenstein have attempted to refine his insights; others, such as Laclau, Alavi, Banaji and Petras, have attempted to go beyond them either by turning to a theory of modes of production or by refocusing attention upon class analysis and the role of the state in the periphery. It is argued here that these intended critiques of Frank do not successfully escape from the limitations of Frank's structural vision of the processes of development and underdevelopment. Hence, although many contemporary commentators have emphasized the divisions which separate these recent contributions, we have characterized current debate as pluralistic in that it is bounded by the structural formulations initially laid down by Frank.

The thesis argues that structuralist methodology offers an epistemological foundation for moving beyond both evolutionary and structural theorizing of the problem of underdevelopment. This issue is taken up, both theoretically and practically, in the final chapter, where partial insights gleaned from the preceding critiques are brought together in relation to current debates over the prospects for reformist capitalist development in the Third World.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Inquiry
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Thompson, Herb and Probert, B.
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