Rostow’s Modernization Theory and Gerschenkron’s Industrialization in Backward Countries


Rostow’s modernization theory has the following five stages of development. Traditional society: the very primitive conditions, very little infrastructure. The preconditions for take-off: agriculture, exchange of goods and invention of new technology. Take-off stage: industrialization and expansion of manufacturing which leads to economic growth. Drive to maturity: urbanization, education, white collar jobs and number of skilled labours increased. High mass consumption: the final stage of development, high level of productions, people can fulfill their all basic needs very easily and relish luxurious life-style, everyone is well-off and this society has achieved ultimate development. The greatness of Rostow it seems very easy and straight forward to achieve development. Even after having this wonderful model of development why many of the countries still struggling with development, is it because this development model is hypothetical? I must say no, Rostow’s model for modernization is not based on utopian world. His model is influenced by how few western countries developed during early industrialization period. This model is appreciable and acceptable for those few western countries. It clearly explains the stages of development which today’s so called developed countries such as England, France, Russia and others went through to achieve the high mass consumption stage, even though these all country didn’t follow the same stages of development. Here one should note that developed countries didn’t develop while following Rostow’s development model rather Rostow developed his model from these already developed countries. In fact, we don’t have any example where Rostow’s development model was followed by any country to achieved development. Rostow’s model is generalized and over-estimates the process of development. Even the very few developed countries didn’t follow his model how come he can claims that any country can be developed while following his development model. Ironically, this development model limits the process of development because according to Rostow’s model once you achieved high mass consumption you are developed and there is no more room for development. In other words development is ceased in developed countries and the new inventions and innovations are no more needed by these developed countries. Here the human intellect and the global diversity are under-estimated by Rostow. According to Rostow’s development model achieving development is very similar to a recipe of a cook book to make a piece of cake which in real world with the real communities doesn’t work. This model is not appreciating the contribution of various factors of economic growth and prosperity of any nation. For instance, religion, culture, traditions, geography, climate, political stability, globalization, international relations and dependency on world market to gain profit and make credit out of one’s abilities. Therefore, I think Rostow’s Model of Development should be named as The Development stages of Early Industrialized Countries because Model of Development is very general and inapplicable for many countries.

On the other hand Alexander Gerschenkron claims in his easy, Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective that growth is not a linear process. He believes that it is not important to follow the certain given methodologies to achieved growth rather a primitive country can use technology instead of going for agriculture to achieve growth. Gerschenkron says that, the most backward economies can use the already invented technology and existing knowledge to boost their economy because they don’t need to invent the things which are already present in the world market. According to him, “technology transfer is important” and transfer of technology is a cause of success in manufacturing areas of backward countries. In this way countries which come later in the market or which are introduce to industrialization recently can grow faster than the early industrialized countries. His argument seems valid because why one has to wait for a summer to buy a mongo if he/she can buy it from the market at any time. Here the main thing is money. From where a poor country will manage to pay for the modern technology, from where they will have skillful workers who can operate the modern technology. These are few concerns which need to be addressed while talking about Gerschenkron’s theory. Gerschenkron’s theory is comparatively better and acceptable in global perceptive for economic growth as compare to Rostow’s model of development. Gerschenkron’s theory appreciates globalization and dependency of countries on each other in terms of economic growth and trade.  According to Gerschenkron development is a continuous process and all countries are going through it on the daily basis. He didn’t define any end limit of development, he talks about economic growth of the countries and no doubt he is pleased about the effects of globalization in terms of economic growth. He is challenging the Rostow’s model of development and argues that backward countries can easily and quickly achieve development as compare to the developed countries, and development is not a step by step process. Both Rostow’s development model and Gerschenkron ideology about economic growth of backward countries talks about same topic from two very different approaches; one emphasize on liner model of development and other is talking about big leaps due to modern technology to achieve development.


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