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Beyond the Stereotype: Restating the Relevance of the Dependency Research Programme

Ingrid Harvold Kvangraven ()

Development and Change, 2021, vol. 52, issue 1, 76-112

Abstract: This article evaluates the relevance of dependency theory for understanding contemporary development challenges, especially in the light of changes in the global economy over the past 50 years. In order to do so, the article rectifies previous misunderstandings of the scholarship and offers a new definition of dependency theory as a research programme, rather than a singular theory. Four core tenets of this research programme are identified: a global historical approach; theorizing of the polarizing tendencies of global capitalism; a focus on structures of production; and a focus on the specific constraints faced by peripheral economies. While each of these elements can be found in many contemporary theories, what makes dependency theory unique — and a particularly strong research programme — is the combination of these elements. The article demonstrates how this approach provides a deep and broad understanding that is necessary to appreciate the persistence of uneven development with reference to two case studies, namely successful industrialization in South Korea, and how the fragmentation of global value chains has impacted industrialization in Indonesia. Finally, the article argues that approaching these kinds of cases through a dependency research programme can contribute to a fruitful renewal of development studies.

Date: 2021
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