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The Study of Man: The Road to Economic Development

- Abstract

PRECISELY how does a backward peasant society transform itself into a modern, technically advanced one? This question represents a new field of investigation for social scientists, whose studies have taken on political urgency since the end of World War II. For with the collapse of the old colonial empires, some two dozen Asian and African states have acquired political sovereignty and now seek, through more or less ambitious development programs, to achieve economic independence as well. But as the history of Latin America makes clear, the possession of natural resources together with a desire for modernization are not enough to establish a modern industrial society. A host of other factors are involved; and it is these factors that economists, historians, and sociologists are trying to identify.

The literature of economic development has passed through three distinct phases since the end of the war. First came the tracts and pamphlets which were designed to arouse popular interest in the reconstruction of devastated countries. We heard proposals to spend billions of dollars on development aid; to send technical missions to the four corners of the world; to establish scholarships and training fellowships for students from the poorer countries. There was little analysis in these writings of the reasons for economic backwardness, nor was any coherent theory developed of how it could be overcome.

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