Compare and Contrast Self-reliance theory and Modernization theory

Compare and Contrast Self-reliance theory and Modernization theory




  • Both self-reliance and Modernization theories came about in the bid to explain the reasons for the ‘under-development’ of the ‘third world’, whatever the meaning of development may be. Interest in development issues is only recent, with both theories only dated back into the fifties and the sixties. Although there is a notable likeness in both theories, they both also differ one to the other.
  • Both theories, although one criticizing the other, are solely to explain the reason for poverty and under-development in the ‘third world’.
  • Both theories are ethnocentric in that they both point to the fact that Western world is dominant, which leaves little room for alternative ways to development of the ‘Third World’ except the Western way.
  • Both theories underline the relationship between the developed and the under-developed world as being unequal and agrees that there is (or at least has to be) some form of dependence on the developed world as they are well off in all aspect of what development is known to be.


  • Both theories are largely over-simplified and narrow. The first fails to take into account the effect of international trade and power relationships on development, while the second ignores real differences in economic and political culture among nations. Both sides worked to exacerbate their differences and cut off rational debate by appealing to emotion and ideology.
  • Both theories underline the dominant position of Western countries in the modern world and leave little room for the alternative ways of the development but the western one, which is viewed as the only way of the development of the future world in the context of the global economy.
  • It is worthy of mention that both theories are ethnocentric in a way because they practically ignore the possibility of the alternative development of developing countries but, instead they insist that the development of western countries will be still on top.


Compare and Contrast Self-reliance theory and Modernization theory
Compare and Contrast Self-reliance theory and Modernization theory
  • Furthermore, these theories are similar in the sense that, they all state that, the experience of developed countries is followed in terms of development by developing and underdeveloped countries which basically develop in the same direction as developed countries but still they cannot catch the latter up and remain in the rearguard of the world development. More so, there is a notable likeness in both theories because they both give valid and just explanations for development and underdevelopment.


Compare and Contrast Self-reliance theory and Modernization theory


  • Modernization theory is based on the Western Ideology, and argues that ‘third world’ countries are to follow and depend on the West in order for them to develop, as this is the only way for them to meet up in the Global world, whilst Self-reliance theory argues that for the LDCS to develop, it is important for them to pull out of the global world, and be self-reliant.
  • In the level of analysis, Modernization theory uses micro sociological level (individuals and aggregates of individuals, their values, attitudes, and beliefs), in determining the reason for backwardness, whilst the Self-reliance theory uses the macro sociological level that is mode of production, international trade, political and economic linkages, and group and class conflicts or alliances, in arguing underdevelopment.


  • Modernization theory looks at the nation’s society whilst Self-reliance theory uses the global system to prove its theory.
  • Modernisation theory assumes that undeveloped countries remain so because they have not been industrialised, countries such as Great Britain and France. “Societies are treated as structural functional whole. As such, they are adaptive systems and progress from one evolutionary stage to another. In particular, there is a need for “special entrepreneurs or elite able to offer solutions to the new range of problems. And the stronger the elite the greater the progress.” (Harrison, cited in Costantino 1998).
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This contrasts with Self-reliance theory which can be seen to form its basis in historical materialism and its critiquing of political economy. Historical materialism criticizes the class divisions it claims are inherent within the capitalist system, which comprises of workers and the owners of the means of production. Historical materialism states that the colonized countries were bought into the global capitalist system as dependencies of their former colonial masters therefore cannot enter the global capitalist system such as modernization theory suggests. This demonstrates a clear contrast in the two theories.

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