Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Rethinking Dependency Theory: The Case of Dominica, the Rascal State

Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Rethinking Dependency Theory: The Case of Dominica, the Rascal State

Article excerpt


Over the past decade, the debate over dependency theory has been eclipsed by the controversy over globalization. Despite the fading dialogue on dependency theory, academics continue to critique it. Ricardo Duchesne notes that "the export of capitalism does not block development in the periphery, but rather stimulates it." (1) Haldun Gulalp writes that dependency theory is highly Eurocentric. (2) In an earlier critique, Bill Warren writes that rather than inhibiting development, capital from the First World contributed to a faster growth in manufacturing in the Third World between 1970 and 1990 and an increase in employment in some countries. (3) Glenn Firebaugh argues that "foreign capital plays a decidedly secondary role to domestic capital in economic development in the Third World, and the net effect of foreign capital is positive, not negative." (4) Finally, John Tures contends, "Just as classical modernization scholars see a unidirectional path from the traditional to the modern, dependency theorists make a blanket assumption that in all Third World states poverty is due to external factors; no mention is made of internal dynamics. Maybe some states are constrained by dependency, while others can find ways to use the world capitalist system to their advantage, such as the Newly Industrialized Countries (NICs) of East Asia." (5)

This article will ask the question, can small and weak states, not simply the industrially powerful NICs, take advantage of the world capitalist system? Dependency theorists assume that Third World nations, especially small Third World nations, lack agency. Their size and their position in the world capitalist system force their destiny: economic underdevelopment and political dependence.

This article will examine an extreme case--the Republic of Dominica--a small island nation in the Eastern Caribbean with a population of 70 thousand. Like many less developed countries (LDCs), Dominica is primarily a supplier of raw, primary goods to the West, principally bananas, and also maintains a largely undeveloped tourist industry. Thus, like many LDCs,

Dominica lacks economic diversification and is subject to the variances in banana prices and the whims and fears of tourists, primarily from the United States. Clearly, if any less developed country fits the definition of a dependent peripheral nation it is Dominica.

Can a small and weak Caribbean nation, like Dominica, take advantage of the world capitalist system? Dominica falls squarely within the world capitalist system, but also manages to benefit from some of capitalism's ongoing conflicts and contradictions. Dominica is what the author calls a "rascal" nation. Dominica solicits and receives help from the International Monetary Fund to finance its significant debt, while at the same time maintaining good relations with some of the so-called "rogue" states, specifically Cuba and Libya, although the latter country lost its status as a rogue when it gave up its nuclear ambitions in 2003. (The term rogue state is applied by some international theorists to states considered threatening to world peace or in pursuit of nuclear weapons.) To this day, Cuba provides education to approximately 300 Dominican students. Furthermore, Dominica established diplomatic relations with Libya in 2000 in the hope of obtaining aid.

Dominica also takes advantage of the on-going conflict between Taiwan and China, and engages in several questionable enterprises that ultimately serve citizens in the Developed Countries (DCs), while also benefitting Dominica's residents. Its behavior does not rise to the level of rogue, but it does rise to the level of rascal.


Dependency theory posits that the strong developed countries exploit the weak LDCs for their own benefit. Dependency theory is an alternative to the classic development theories, like modernization theory, made popular by mainstream economists, which assumes that some of the LDCs will eventually attain the position of the DCs through wise stewardship of their economies. …

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