PHILOSOPHICAL EVALUATION OF WALTER RODNEY’S CONCEPT OF DEVELOPMENT

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SIXTUS MARTINS IBEABUCHI UGWU

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ABSTRACT

The concept of Development falls under the Anthropological part of Philosophy, but in recent times, it is attracting scholarly discussions which demands Philosophical evaluation. Taking into consideration, the attributes of development which includes: ontological, cultural, social and psychological integration, many scholars from different fields of study have contributed, but none has given a convincing link like that of Rodney’s Marxism: where he used historical Materialism to trace economic stages, from primitive stage to Socialism. However, He opened a new mode of intellectual discussion which answers question on the cardinal points of development which are; the consent of oneself, proper integration of personal, and societal endowed potentialities, increase in skills, responsibility and material well being, and restructuring of Superstructures. Tracing development from subsequent ideologies would not determine quick growth of the Underdeveloped, but maintenance of bases that serve as yardsticks for authentic development. Giving a philosophical evaluation to Rodney’s concept of development is the major task of this research with exposition of his Marxist philosophy from which his influence is rooted.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Approval – – – – – — – – i
Certification – – – – – — – – – ii
Dedication – – – — – – – – iii
Acknowledgments – – – – – – – – vi
Abstract – – – – — — — – – – vii

CHAPTER ONE:
1.1 General Introduction – – – – — – 1
1.2 Statement of the problem – – – – – 2
1.3 Purpose of the study – – – – – – 3
1.4 Scope of the Work – – – – — – – 3
1.5 Method of the study – – – — – 3
1.6 Significance of the study – — — — 4
1.7 Organization of the study- – – – – – — — 4
1.8 Definition of Terms – – – — – – – -5
References – — – – — – — – 19

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CHAPTER TWO
Literature Review – – – – — – – -21-39
References – – — – – – – -40-41

CHAPTER THREE
3.0 RODNEY’S MARXIST CONCEPT OF DEVELOPMENT.
3.1 Biography of Walter Rodney – – – – 42
3.2 Rodney’s Marxist concept of Development- – – 45
3.3 Dialectical Materialism – – – – – 47
3.4 Labour – – – – – – – – 49
3.5 Alienation – – – – – – – 53
3.6 Qualitative and Quantitative changes – – – 57
3.7 The importance of Negation in Development – – 60
3.8 Self Realizations – – – – – – – 61
3.9 Economic Base and Superstructure – – – – 62
3.10 End of Development – – – – – – 65
3.11 Summary – – – – – – – 66
References – – — – – – – – 68

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CHAPTER FOUR
4.0 A Critical Evaluation of Rodney’s concept of
Development
4.1 Science and technology — – – – – 71
4.2 Humanism – – – – – – – 79
4.3 Culture – – – – — – – – 81
4.4 Philosophy: As a base for Authentic Development – – – 82
4.5 The philosopher: As a Great Determinant of – 87
Authentic Development – – – – – –
4.6 Summary – – — – – – – 88
References – – – – – – – – – 90

CHAPTER FIVE
5.1 Evaluation and Conclusion – – – – 92
References- – – – – – – – 99
Bibliography – – – – – – – – – 100

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION
1.0 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
In recent time, the concept of development is attracting
scholarly views, though, difficult to understand, depending on
the perspective one is arguing from. Its meaning can not be
fully appreciated without reference to human person because
it has to do with the realization of personal potentials and self
fulfillment.
In Rodney’s explanation, as contained in his book; How
Europe Underdeveloped Africa, the concept of development
which many scholars are taking to be economic growth and
appreciable level of modernization made us to realize that; we
all are agents of development and it is the accumulation of our
efforts towards our different societies that determines the level
of our development.
Rodney tried to drag his readers out from Plato’s cave of
ignorance to the world of light, but they may not welcome the
idea because as Plato said, “if they could lay hands on the
man who was trying to set them free and lead them up, they

11
would kill him”.1 Rodney was killed in his bid to lead humanity
out of the cave of ignorance, slavery, inequality, political
insensitivity and man inhumanity to man in Guyana.
Philosophy, as this work contends, serves as a rational
and critical enterprise which offers tools and methods for us to
evaluate Rodney’s concept of development.
1.1 Statement of the Problem
The problem this work is trying to look into is, Rodney’s
inability to see development from a philosophical perspective.
Depending on the environment and discipline that shaped
him, he treated the concept of development from historical
materialism with passionate hatred for capitalism and
colonialism: forgetting the fact that it is capitalism that set
modern society into two camps: the bourgeoisie and the
proletariat camp. Without this, there would not have been
class struggle which brings about changes and development in
the society

12
1.2 Purpose of the Study
Since development falls under the Anthropological aspect
of philosophy, it will be considerable to evaluate the concept of
development as conceived by Rodney, from philosophical
perspective: by bringing out the bases on which authentic
development should be build upon, which will help to
disabuse the minds of people for the misconceptions of other
disciplines that take development to be increase in economy,
infrastructure facilities, body growth, and so on, forgetting the
spiritual and moral values which should be the bedrock of
anything that should stand as development in human society.
1.3 Scope of the Work
The scope of this work is centered on philosophical
evaluation of Rodney’s work on development. This research is
restricted to journals on philosophy of development and
Rodney’s work on development.
1.4 Method of the study.
The method we are applying here are: analytical and critical
methods. With analysis, we will be able to know etymological
meaning of some strange concepts that will becloud our minds

13
in full understanding of development. By using critical
method, we will also be able to understand what should stand
as development. For development to be fully appreciated in the
human society, it has to be anchored on the stipulated bases.
1.5 Significance
Development is a philosophical concept which should not
be adulterated in the terminologies of other disciplines such as
economics which will take it to be increased in economic
growth or increase in GNP or scientific concept of development
which is only based in technical advancement or man’s
improved ability to manipulate nature. With philosophical
ideals, the concept of development will be well articulated.
1.7 Organization Of The Study: Accordingly, this work is
divided into five chapters. Chapter one deals with introduction
and explications of terms, chapter two is on literature review.
Chapter three treats areas of development in relation with
Marx and chapter four is on the bases for development. And
chapter five is on philosophical evaluation of Rodney’s concept
of development and conclusion.

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1.6 Definitions of Terms
i. Alienation:
The Latin origin of “alienation” is alienatio. This noun derives
its meaning from the verb “alienare” to make (something
another’s, to take away, remove).
ii. Bourgeoisie: This means the class of modern capitalist,
owners of the means of social and economic production and
also those who have the means to employ labour.
iii. Proletariat: This means the class of modern wage labour
who have no means of production and are reduced to selling
their labour power to survive in a capitalistic society.
iv. Dialectical Materialism: This means that general Laws of
development that discloses and studies contradictions in the
materials world.
v. Psycho-Somatic: This means the combination of soul and
body structure in their functions.
vi. Humanism: This means a concept that encourages man to
be more human and to manifest his latent potentialities by
exerting them to enrich himself in nature.

15
vii. Slavery: This means a total subjection to a master; it is
also the condition in which another owns another human
being as a property
viii. Communalism: This is an economic system where
properties are collectively owned, work is commonly done and
goods are equally shared.
xi. Feudalism: This means another political ideology in which
power belongs to the feudal lords while serfs are those who are
working under them.
x. Capitalism: This is an economic system in which means of
production, distribution and exchanges are properly owned
and managed for personal profit.
xi. Socialism: This is a political and economic ideology that
advocates the collective ownership of the means of production
and control of distribution.
xii. Communism: This another political and economic
ideology in which means of production, distribution and
exchange are shared on the principle of “to each according to
his need”.

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xiii. Philosophy
The word “philosophy” etymologically originated from two
Greek works Philein (to love) and sophia; (wisdom) these
mean “Love of wisdom”. Love as contained in the above
combination is the type of love that thinks of good of the
beloved.
…when we say love of wisdom…that which tends in all sincerity at a great cost. It can be equated with the statement of the scripture, what love has a friend that he lays down his life for his friends. It is love that is roundishly good and attractive, enthralling to all that comes in contact with it, it emits a glow of purity.3

The term “of” is a preposition that serves as a link between
love and wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to know that which is
removed from sensation or perceptibility. Philosophy,
therefore, is an enterprise which uses methods of reasoning to
sieve true knowledge from the chaff of ignorance, prejudice
and uncoordinated reasoning.
xvi. Development
Rodney defines it from various perspectives, for him;
Development in human society is a many sided process. At the level of the individuals it implies increased skill and capacity, greater freedom creativity, self discipline, responsibility and material well-being.4

17

This implies that for anything to be considered as
development, it must start from individual self. Iroegbu got it
right, for him:
Development is the progressive unfolding of the inner potentialities of a given reality. It is to deenvelop, that is to bring out to light existential, functional and epistemic, what was enveloped, folded or hidden. As it applies to people, development is the integration of the various givens; natural, physical, acquired and human, of a people towards the full working out, permanently and cumulatively, of their being as persons, of their community and of their real productivity.5

In the interpretation of the above definition, Mbaegbu
noted that:
The implication of this definition is that any attempt to conceive development in terms of scientific and technological advancement to the utter neglect of the spiritual, moral and the socio-political spheres, etc, is bound to precipitate materials progress and low spiritual development.6

Freud in his psychoanalytical exercise sees development
as something that is embedded in human nature which takes
gradual process for manifestation.
Cornelius Jaarsma viewed development “as the unfolding
of pattern already implicit in the organism” for him:

18
The psychosomatic function become increasingly organized and structured: activities become more precise and controlled. Babbling becomes deliberately formed words and sentences. Handwriting moves from disordered scrawl to normal script. Abstract concept comes more and more to dominate thought and action. All this is development.7
Words used above which denotes teleological meanings
portrays Rodney as a developmental ethicist. “Some of the
these are virtually moral categories and are difficult to
evaluate depending as they do on the age in which one lives,
ones class, origin, and one’s personal code of what is right and
what is wrong”8. For Rodney, the moral content of
development is subjective. In moral subjectivism, it is the
individual that determines the moral judgment of an action,
for example, when I say that murder is wrong, I am merely
saying that I don’t personally, want people to be murdered. On
a subjective view, ethical judgment, varies from person to
person and don’t have any factual base outside individual’s
own mind. The level of individual development which is often
subjective, “is very much tied in with the state of the society as
a whole”.9 Society is created by man’s togetherness which he

19
found so “convenient and necessary to come together in group
to hunt for the sake of survival”.10 Whichever word, Rodney
used to defined the concept of development such as “freedom,
responsibility, skill, etc. have real meaning only in terms of the
relations of man in society”.11 As individual deposits his
personal development to the society, so also, the society will
enrich the individual by catering for his needs. It is through
this that “the relations between individual in any two societies
are regulated by the form of two societies”.12 The social
relationship always carries “their respective political
structures…because the ruling elements within each group
are the ones that begin to dialogue, trade or fight, as the case
may be”.13 Rodney’s definitions of development at the social
group “implies an increasing capacity to regulate both internal
and external relationships”14, after seeing development at the
social level, the next is at the economic level. Rodney defined
economic development thus: “A society develops economically,
as its members increase jointly their capacity for dealing with
the environment”15. Every society has a worldview and it is

20
their worldview that controls their superstructure which is the
great determinant for a greater or a lower level of development.
This capacity for dealing with the environment is depending on the extent to which they understand the laws of nature (Science, on the extent to which they put that understanding into practice by devising tools (technology), and on the manner in which works is organized.16

Economically, there has been a tremendous change in
development from the primitive stage to the modern times.
Human being has transcended from the stage of bands of
hunters to communalism. After which slavery followed, this is
“caused by the extension of domineering element within the
family and by some groups being physically overwhelmed by
others”17. Slaves are subjected to all sorts of works, “but their
main job was to produce food”.18 The next stage of economic
development is feudalism, this is a situation agriculture
remained the principal means of making livelihood, but the
land which was necessary for that purpose was in the hands
of few and they took the lion’s share of the wealth”19. Under
feudalism, the workers are known as sorts, but at this stage of
economic development, “they were no longer the personal

21
property of the masters, but they were tied to the land of a
particular manor or estate”20 The next stage that followed was
capitalism a system whereby “the greatest wealth in the
society was produced not in agriculture but by machines in
factions and in mines”21 In capitalism, the means of
production are in the hands off the bourgeoisies while the
proletariat are their workers who owns nothing but their
labour power, for Rodney:
Capitalism was characterized by the concentration in a few hands of ownership of means of producing wealth and by unequal distribution of the products of human labour.21

The bourgeoisies originated from craftsmen and
merchants who are the Lords in feudal epoch. In capitalist
epoch they are known as the industrialist and financiers.
Capitalism is not attracting a good working is not attracting a
good recommendation especially by the working class who are
exploited just because the bourgeoisies claim to own means of
production.

22
There is a prediction that socialism, as the next economic
system will be used to restore the human equality and dignity
as was in communal epoch.
Tracing the sequential stages of economic ideological
succession represents economic development which exerts
control over the “material environment and services”23
When Rodney defined development as an increased skill,
capacity greater freedom, and creativity he notice that “the
greater quantity of goods and services were based on greater
skills and human inventiveness”24 and human society passing
through “those three respective epochs: hunting band
feudalism, capitalism the quality of life improved”25
Despite the fact that every societies experienced
development, it can known that society can come in contact
and there would be intermingling of superstructures in which
the weaker one may be weakened more people of Africa have
developed even before the advent of colonialism because.
“Egypt was capable of producing wealth in abundance twenty
five centuries ago, because of mastery of many scientific

23
natural laws and their invention of technology to irrigate, grow
food, and extract minerals from the sub-soil”26.
China also got to the peak of development “Virtually
1,000 years before the birth of Christ it had developed many
aspects of technology; and it had many craftsmen and
artisans”27 China never experienced capitalistic tendency.
In China, Religious, educational and bureaucratic qualifications were of utmost importance, and government was in the hands of state officials rather than being run by the land lords”28

Whatever, that constitutes the difference between
Chinese and European feudal epoch lies in the superstructure
because “there were greater egalitarian tendencies in Chinese
band distribution than in the European Land distribution, and
the Chinese state owned a great deal of land”29
Economic development, especially capitalism influences
politics of society, just as Rodney would hold At the political
level, capitalism was also responsible for most of the features
which today are referred to as “western Democracy”30 because
it is mostly the burgiesoies who are the owners of production

24
will also have greater powers as the bureaucrats in the socio
political institutions;
To fulfill their objective of acquiring more and more capital, capitalists took a greater interest in the laws of science which could be harnessed in the form of machinery to work and make profit on their behalf.31

Despite the fact that the phase of feudal epoch is phasing
out, the capitalist used all their power to seize and control “the
parliaments, constitution, freedom, it is the peasants that
suffer it because they “paid a huge price so that the capitalists
could make their profits from the human labour that always
lies behind the machines”33 these peasants constitutes the
greater number of people in any human society and gradually
they are over throwing capitalism.
There was a period when the capitalist system increased the well-being of significant numbers of people as a by-product of seeking out profits for a few, but today the quest for profits comes into sharp conflict with people’s demands that their materials and social needs should be fulfilled. 34

Capitalist used their societal influence to monopolize
science and technology, but it seems that there will be a time
when the reverse will be the case because there will clash of

25
interest and objective in the profit motive. And there has been
expressed dissatisfaction in capitalism as Rodney rightly
observed:
Capitalism has proved incapable of transcending such as underutilization of productive capacity, the persistence, and permanent sector of unemployed, and period economic crises related to the concept of “market” which is concerned system with people’s ability to pay rather than their need for commodities35. Capitalism maybe handing around today in our economic
system with Socialism and communism but that could depict
the fact that stages of economic system goes in succession.
Capitalism inhere contradiction in the concept of development
since there are those who suffer for the ruling class to make
their capitalist achievement possible. Capitalism also has its
extension which is imperialism.
Imperialism is itself a phase of capitalist development in which western European capitalist countries, the U.S.A and Japan established political, economic, military and cultural hegemony over other parts of the world which were initially at a lower level and therefore could not resist domination.36

This has divided the world in to parts: “the exploiters and
other exploited: one part being dominated, and the other

26
acting as overlords, one part making policy and the other
being dependent”37 for the rulership of the people to prevail
there will be; “a socialist revolution to break the domination of
capitalism, and only the rapid tempo of socialist development
could make amends for the period of subjugation when growth
(is) misdirected and refereed”38
The core areas of development are; psycho-personal
development, the intellectual –spiritual, the politico-economic
and the scientific-technological areas. Development can also
be seen as “an event in conflict, an action in contradiction a
complex of perennial involution of evolution and as well, the
unhalting evolution it is both the becoming of being, and the
being of becoming. In development, being stands outside itself
while remaining concealed within”.39
Underdevelopment
Underdevelopment is a concept used comparatively to
measure level of development in the modern society. It does
not really imply total absence of development, since no society
is not developed, considering the fact that development is a
universal phenomenon

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xv. SUMMARY
Influential economists such as Ragnar Nurske saw development and growth largely as a matter of industrialization. Some could not quite distinguish between industrialization and development: Others such as Rustow confused both with westernization.40

The concept of development has been gravely misconceived by
different scholars in different discipline leaving man, in whom
the real development is embedded in, behind. His spiritual and
moral aspects are left aside to suffer wanton neglect.
Our effort has been to extricate the concept of
development from the unhollistic perspective of other
discipline which spurred Rodney who took from Marx, to
perceive it from three outlets which are: Individual, Social and
economic level.Rodney may not be a philosopher per
excellence owing totally to the environment and discipline that
molded him, but his attempt to delve into deciphering
development from material and economic growth, in his
intellectual discuss is worthy of philosophical scrutiny.