The World Needs a New Socialist Development Theory

Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research releases a new dossier on the need to revitalize theories of social development in the face of mounting human misery.

Over the course of the past century, substantial changes have taken place in debates about social development. Dossier no. 66, The World Needs a New Socialist Development Theory, examines the historical evolution of development theory over four distinct eras, analyses the obstacles that stand in the way of development today, identifies processes that have the potential to advance genuine alternatives, and offers an outline of a new socialist development theory.

Enduring neocolonial structures in the world economy have made it difficult for countries in the Global South to pursue viable development agendas. However, following the 2007–2008 Western financial crisis, large developing states have begun to contemplate the revival of a South-South development agenda. The emergence of South-South institutions, as well as the rapid expansion of China’s trade policy and regional initiatives, have provided developing states with more choices than have been available to them in decades and have reduced their dependence on Western-controlled institutions. These new realities demand the formulation of new development theories, new assessments of the possibilities of, and pathways to, transcending the obstinate facts of social despair. In other words, what has been put back on the table is the necessity for national planning and regional cooperation as well as the fight to produce a better external environment for finance and trade.

The emergence of institutions of South-South cooperation and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project provides new opportunities for socialist movements and governmental projects to work together to formulate a new socialist development theory. This theory must engage with what Samir Amin termed the ‘five controls’ that constrain the development agenda – the West’s monopoly control over natural resources, financial flows, science and technology, military power, and information – and find mechanisms to wrest control over these arenas.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian and journalist. Prashad is the author of twenty-five books, including The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World and The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South. Read other articles by Vijay, or visit Vijay's website.