Negative Aspects of Columbian Exchange: The Dependency Theory

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Following major events such as the Columbian Exchange in the 14th century, population levels fluctuated tremendously due to diseases, resource availability, and colonialism. During the Columbian Exchange, there was an increase of meat available than ever before; this rise in meat per man in the region triggered migrations from other parts of the world which resulted in a major population growth when the Europeans colonized America (Crosby, 1972). The rate of people migrating toward the Americas created more underdeveloped countries as they and their resources were left behind. This phenomenon of intrinsic and flourishing industrial growth versus the stagnating underdevelopment in countries was brought forth by the modernization theory. This theory attempts to explain that countries are in ever-changing stages (Rostow’s Stages) and are dynamic in terms of their economic states, meaning that underdevelopment is only a stage that a country goes through. Furthermore, if an underdeveloped country is only going through a stage, advocates of this theory suggest that the underdeveloped country is doing themselves a disservice and they shall be blamed for the reason they were undeveloped in the first place and have not progressed to the later stages; this can range from reasons such as culturalism and how personal virtues may interpose against the notion of a global industrialism which the modernization theory ultimately ignores (Rostow’s 1st Stage - Traditional Society).

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The theory’s solution to underdevelopment is to set aside traditional values (such as manual labor) and be open minded into increasing productivity in the country (e.g making new inventions and new materials); this can create entirely new markets which improves trade potential and job opportunities of that country (Rostow’s 2nd Stage - Takeoff). Prominent authors of the modernization theory include Walt Rostow, who coined the five stages a country goes through in terms of economic growth. In my opinion, an advantage of this theory is that sometimes it is a good thing to put yourself at blame if you’re living in an underdeveloped country. Although this sounds discouraging, some people like myself may actually use this thought to inspire action rather than having that “Oh well, this is not in our control” mindset. The major disadvantage of this theory is that it views tradition as a barrier that must be overcome, rather than something that people may keep but still be able to progress in the economy. Living in a very traditionalist family, I have seen my parents keep culture into consideration but also utilize it to build businesses, and acquire new jobs that weren’t in the “traditional society’s” norm.

The dependency theory was made as a refinement to the modernization theory. Prominent authors include Raul Prebisch, who posed a solution stating that underdeveloped countries need to limit their dependency on bigger developed countries. The major takeaway from the dependency theory is that wealth is not circulated evenly, given a cycle of richer countries depending on poorer (peripheral) countries in order to generate their wealth. An advantage that can be seen with this is that peripheral countries are independent in terms of their economic development, rather than the traditional societies from the modernization theory being flawed and dependent on finding advancement. The disadvantages lie in which if a peripheral country is being depended on by a rich country for economic development: the peripheral country is already poor and lacks resources, so using even more for their own development is counterproductive as it may generate owed debt to the richer countries. In broader perspective, dependency theory attacks the notion of capitalism and blames it on its dualistically skewed economy, while the modernization theory supports capitalism and its ways up of a marginally upward economy.

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Negative Aspects of Columbian Exchange: The Dependency Theory. (2023, February 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
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