Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

Apemanship: A Critique of the Modernisation Theory in Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's Selected Works and Clement Chihota's "Shipwreck" in No More Plastic Balls

Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

Apemanship: A Critique of the Modernisation Theory in Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's Selected Works and Clement Chihota's "Shipwreck" in No More Plastic Balls

Article excerpt


Broadly speaking, apemanship refers to the general tendency by Africans to uncritically and slavishly imitate the western philosophies and values. It has its foundations in the belief that because the whites conquered and colonized, their histories, philosophies and idiosyncrasies are worthy of imitation. It is, by and large, a manifestation of the failure of imagination. Nowhere is the concept of apemanship more manifest than in the area of development.

The issue of African development has exercised the minds of many an African thinker for a long time. This has been compounded by the bleak realization that despite the religious adherence to the borrowed development models over the years Africa is still plagued by wars, disease and general stagnation .Before looking at the basic tenets of the Modernization Theory the research will try and interrogate these basic questions in relation to the theory: Is there really one trajectory to modernity? If so why have the majority of African countries failed to catch up with Euro-America? What and who are the change agents in a society? Are these internal or external or are they a function of both? Is it possible to become modern and still remain an African in a globalizing world inaugurated by the totalizing effects of the modernization thrust? These are questions that will help in analyzing the problematique of the Modernization Theory.

W.W Rostow, the brainchild of this theory, argues that development takes place through particular stages which must be followed meticulously because "nature never makes a jump" (1960:309).He pontificates that this theory has a universal applicability for all societies that want to develop. Rostow's first quarrel is with traditional values which he sees as antithetical to development. These societies are unscientific and tend to be backward-looking rather than forward-looking. Much premium is placed on the past than the future. The societies depend disproportionately on clan and family connections and tend to shut out personal initiative while stressing communal values. He therefore advocates the changing of most of these attitudes and beliefs in order to release the trapped impulses for growth. One of the preconditions for development, according to him, was the conquest of these undeveloped societies by the Western nations in order to 'shock 'them into modernity. For him, this "hastened its[traditional society]'s undoing;.they set in motion ideas and sentiments which initiated the process by which modern alternative to traditional society was constructed out of culture"(1960:6).

This is a justification of not only colonialism, neocolonialism but also westernization in all its previous and current manifestations. The changes being alluded to go to the heart of political, social and economic institutions of these societies. These changes have to be influenced and enhanced by the pouring in of a lot of cash in the form of aid to these countries. Aid of this kind comes with a lot of conditionalities so that the countries remain beholden upon the seemingly benevolent nations. For these changes to really and fruitfully take place there must exist in these societies a modernizing elite whose ideas about change are borrowed from the west. They are the educated people who must be seen to be more powerful and flamboyant than the custodians of traditional values.

Karl Marx has argued that "the country that is more developed industrially only shows the less developed the image of its own future" (Hettne, 1995:21).This means that the theories of development as propounded by the Modernization Theory are merely a reflection of the west's past and future to be replicated in Africa. Rostow also talks about his theory as possessing universal applicability when in reality it only reflects the development path followed by Euro-America. That this was successful to them was due to the peculiarities of their history, culture and envisioned future. …

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