Development Discourse, Modernization Theory, and Gender

Impact of Modern Development Paradigms on Women

Scientific Essay 2013 7 Pages

Sociology - Gender Studies


Development and Gender

The contemporary world has experienced a focus on development as a core influence on social, economic, and political spheres. Equating the preoccupation with development to a discourse, Escobar (86-91) notes the interpretation of societal development as a technical problem requiring rational decisionmaking and management entrusted to a group of people. How such people conceptualize development has an impact on various groups in society. In this case, a male-dominated outlook on development poses various effects on women, explorable through exploring the various theoretical foundations on development (Lindio-MacGovern and Isidor 35). Several important theories conceptualized over the past half a century form the main ideas surrounding development, one of which is the modernization theory. Through taking the perspective of gendered development in which development affects men and women differently, the present study analyzes impacts of development based on the modernization theory and global capitalism on women.

The study relies on scholarly works covering development, gendered development, modernization theory, and global capitalism. The approach to the discussion entails an overview of development and modernization theory with a focus on the first world-third world divide. This discussion of development frameworks then ushers in an analysis of how such development impacts women. The main theme under investigation is gendered development dwelling on the fate of women, with the central argument being that development and paradigmatic development theories create opportunities and hindrances for the development of women.


Development seeks to achieve progress in local, national, regional, or global social, cultural, and political spheres. According to Escobar (86), the contemporary development paradigm entails the view that material advancement is the only tenable route to the achievement of the noted social, cultural, and political progress. In this case, capital investments constitute the driving force behind industrialization, infrastructural progress, and modernization, interpreted as economic growth and development. Such capital-based advancement is associated with factors such as technology, monetary and fiscal policies, population, resources, industrialization, agricultural development, and commerce. This material advancement conceptualization of development is evident in the global disposition within the last fifty years, with countries categorized as industrialized (developed) and developing. A number of countries, such as the Asian Tigers, have achieved development through industrialization and modernization, while the third world countries strive to establish such transitions.

The aforementioned development paradigm argues that such capital-driven material advancement will solve the social and economic problems facing the developing world. However, a question arises about the source of the capital, which should be from national savings or aid (Escobar 86). Perceived vicious cycles of poverty hinder the former strategy, making aid institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) form a core feature of the modern development discourse, leading to the concept of the flow of global capital. However, this conception of development in the developing world is a major source of criticism, given the actual or perceived lack of the sentimentalized development, as well as the countereffect of entrenching poverty while enriching the first world. In this case, George (207-209) argues that the aid-based development has only served to enrich the North through exploitation of the South in collaboration with the minority rich in the South. The scholar demonstrates this argument by highlighting the debt repaid by the developing world being more than what the creditors from the developed world advance to the third world, besides the conspicuous lack of development even after funding developing nations. From another perspective, Nandy (169) argues that ideologies of progress and frameworks of cumulative growth, which constitute the modern development paradigm, have led to a retrogressive colonization of the mind in Asia and Africa. As George (207) claims, the genuine intention of the current development framework may be to promote progress beneficial to the society, as argued by Western aid institutions. The modernization theory shows just how such beneficial progress is achievable conceptually.

Modernization Theory

Modernization theory forms a core framework for the contemporary development framework, based on the role of that urbanization in progress, often accompanied by heightened industrialization, exposure to the mass media, and literacy. According to Jaquette (268), modernization theory views development from a liberal conception in which progress is a linear and cumulative process. Further, the scholar notes that modernization theory interprets development as expansionist and diffusionist, besides noting the centrality of value differences between traditional versus modern perspectives. Scott (23) explores the main themes evident in the modernization theory, one of which is the separation and differentiation of the household from a traditional to a modern perspective. In this case, tradition is a characteristic that runs counter to modernization, informing the change of ways that supposedly leads to development. Modernization also raises the theme of public versus private distinction. Here, modernity, good governance, rationality, and technological progress unfold in a public sphere inhabited by autonomous actors. Further, modernization theory relies on evolutionary frameworks that present development as a struggle to dominate nature. In this evolutionary model, development corresponds to the increasing ability of people to control and transform their environment (24).



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development discourse modernization theory gender impact modern paradigms women



Title: Development Discourse, Modernization Theory, and Gender