Social Scientist. v 15, no. 171-72 (Aug-Sept 1987) p. 3.

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The Historical Problematic of Third World Development

IN PREPARING this essay as the presidential address to one of the sections of INDIAN HISTORY CONGRESS at its 1986 session,! thought I should take up a theme that concerns every one of us in today's much-dishevelled non-European world—the angstful chaos that we daily face in our peripheral societies wreathed in misery, garbage, and crumbs of life. This vast queHtion of Third World development/underdevelopment naturally calls fo,r work along several different lines of inquiry entailing manysided, interdisciplinary dialogue and interaction. As a student of history, however, I thought I should try at least to identify in this essay what may be called the historical problematic of development/underdevelopment in our Third World societies. In taking up this subject-matter, I was also prompted by the excellent sectional-presidential addresses delivered earlier to INDIAN HISTORY CONGRESS by two of my eminent predecessors—Bipan Chandra [1970] who spoke on the problem of what was then called "modernization" and Barun De [1973] who reflected upon the interaction of colonialism and nationalism in the periphery, both speakers situating themselves within the broad theoretical universe of Marxian discourse. Finally, I must admit I was enticed to enter into this difficult theoretical terrain by the lure of grasping the complexities of the dense debate taking place amongst several theoretical positions which seek to unmask the nature of what has been actually happening for a long time in the silent depths of society in our peripheral countries.


In reviewing the various theories of Third World development form' ulated in the highly altered global situation of the post-war era, I begin with a brief reference to two early runners in the field, since fully outpaced —the "modernization" thesis, and the import substitution industrialization strategy [Isis] of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America [ECLA]. While the former promised springtime-for-ever for the Third World countries once they would industrialize after the Western-

*Burdwan University, West Bengal.

""This is the text of the Presidential Address, Section Four, Indian History Congress, XIVII Session, held in October 1986 at the Kashmir University ofSrinagar,

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