Volume 43, Number 171,
October-December 2012
Theories of Capitalist Development.
A Comparative Evaluation
Ignacio Trucco
The Response to Underdevelopment:
From Industrialization to the Dialectic of Dependence ( ...continuation )

Based on a reading of Hegel’s philosophy of history, perhaps somewhat schematic, Furtado recognizes the challenge that traditional economies never overcame.

The advance of the techniques tended to be seen as a means of overcoming the scarcity of a production factor , on the level of a productive unit. That vision [...] is the origin of many of the difficulties that economists run into when adopting a dynamic approach to economic processes and finding in them something more than a simple series of static situations (Furtado, 1983: 17). —Italics are ours—.

It is important to highlight this idea: the need to overcome the fragmentary vision of social reality and understand that to penetrate its temporal-spatial transformation there must be a principle that makes the movement intelligible, so that each moment defines its existence in relation to this principle, and as such, with the rest of the moments that make up the entire history.

In this sense, Furtado questions the object of the classic theory of development which has been interpreted as exogenous to man, and made an object in its own terms, or even as an explanatory cause of the societal transformation, as this is the immobile motor of history. Furtado proposes a different vision:

Technical progress is really a vague expression. Its common usage encompasses the set of social transformations that make possible the persistence of the accumulation process and as such, the reproduction of capitalist society. At first glance, accumulate is simply to transfer the final use of resources already available for consumption to the future. But in capitalist societies, this act of “rejection” corresponds to remuneration, which is only effective if the accumulated resources take on the form of capital (Furtado, 1983: 18). —Italics are ours—.

As such, technical progress is not relevant unless it has a specific form: the form of capital. With this, Furtado makes it clear that the relevant object of study is not the impact of technical change in production of material life, but rather the deployment of capitalist production relationships in which technology acquires a determined role.

But Furtado’s reading has an inherent complication, which is identical to the difficulty indicated by Astarita in Cardoso and Faletto’s case. This author’s reading of Hegel brings him to an idea of the dialectic method as a method in which priority is given to the notion of the interaction of parts in the formation of a whole with purpose (Furtado, 1965:29-36). This interpretation does not manage to overcome the difficulties of the analytic approximation, as it ignores the ontological nature of dialectic thought4 and at the same time, maintains a relationship of externality between the subject and object that is completely surpassed in Hegel’s system, for example.

In this sense, these ideas interact in the following summary:

To construct a dynamic model, in other words, to explain a development process, it is insufficient to merely identify the interrelationships between the multiple factors that make up the system. It will always be necessary to introduce some exogenous element, that is, modify some of the structural parameters. It would seem that there is a consensus that this permanently modified parameter in modern societies is the technique (Furtado, 1965: 35).

But beyond this analysis, Furtado’s notably ontological reading on the process of the development of capitalist modernity has been one of the most in-depth readings carried out. Capitalist modernity as a general phenomenon and in its specific forms that it acquires in “underdeveloped” countries is, without a doubt, a qualitative leap from the traditional vision of neoclassical and Keynesian models.

In this sense, Furtado understands that “to understand the causes of the historical persistence of underdevelopment, it is necessary to observe it as part of an entire movement, as an expression of the dynamics of the world economic system generated by industrial capitalism” (Furtado, 1983:35-36).

Having said this, Furtado tries out a few ideas that express the singularity of underdeveloped spaces in the context of capital development. A few examples can be extracted and summarized from one of the texts discussed in this work (Furtado, 1983), to highlight a few of the problematic features of underdeveloped countries:

Lagging industrialization [...] would compete with imports and not with preexisting artisan activities [...] Changes in the forms of production would take away traditional jobs from the demographic masses, who would then look for refuge in sub-cultural urban systems that only sporadically interact with the markets, but have a strong influence over them as labor reserves (Furtado, 1983: 36-37).

Investments in infrastructure and in basic industries depend directly on public power or on guarantees given to the public by foreign groups [...] In this way, many of the criteria traditionally used to differentiate public and private activities loses validity (Furtado, 1983: 38).

Dominant Classes, Power and Ideology:
A reflection on development, by provoking a progressive approximation of the theory of accumulation towards the theory of social stratification and the theory of power (Furtado, 1983: 39).

These three dimensions, among others, deserve a response if the goal is to theorize on the forms in which capitalism has been deployed in underdeveloped countries. As has been seen (Furtado: 1965: 65-76), the author’s interpretation is grounded above all in the complex system of interactions between groups of power and their ideological forms of social progress, in the context of even more complex exterior relations that make up the conditions for technical development, the distribution of surplus and the reproduction of the social system.

4 Regarding this, it would be useful to review the new debate on dialectic thought that seeks to provide the base for a science with an ontology built from the Hegelian system. This effort maintains an intimate relationship with what is seen in Furtado’s work and in work by the dependency school of thought, but it undoubtedly dialectically surpasses these (see Ollman and Smith, 2008, for example).

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PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 195 October-December 2018 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
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