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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.




 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 selffulfillment.

 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 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 

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 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.

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. 

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”. 

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

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:

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 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 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 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. 

 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 twentyfive centuries ago, because of mastery of many scientific 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 will also have greater powers as the bureaucrats in the sociopolitical 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 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 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 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


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.     


1.           Stumpf. E. S.       Philosophy: History and Problems. (Chicago:

McGraw Hill 2003), p. 53.

2.           Ukagba G. U.       ‘African Philosophy as the Bedrock for Africa

development’ Ogirisi: A New Journal of African Studies Vol. 1, No 1, 2003, p. 128

3.           Ogugua P. I.  Philosophy for Beginners.(Onitsha:Bible Society 1999) p. 2.

4.           Rodney W. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Abuja:panaf

publishing Inc.,1973)  p.2.

5.           Iroegbu P. Enwisdomization and Africa philosophy (Owerri:

International University press,1994), p. 81.

6.           Mbaegbu C. C. ‘Philosophy as a Gate-valve to Africa Development’ Philosophy and Africa.(ed) Ike Odimegwu  (Amawbia:

Lumos Nigeria.  2006), p. 190 

7.           Rodney, op cit.,p.1

8.           ibid.

9.           ibid.

10.        ibid.

11.        ibid., p.2

12.        ibid.

13.        ibid.

14.        ibid.

15.        ibid.

16.        ibid.p.3

17.        ibid. p. 6 

18.        ibid.

19.        ibid.

20.      ibid. 21.      ibid.

22.      ibid.

23.      ibid. p.7 

24.        ibid.

25.        ibid.

26.        ibid.

27.        ibid. p.9  28.           ibid., p.10 

29.        ibid.

30.        ibid.

31.      ibid.

32.        ibid.

33.        ibid.

34.        ibid. p. 11 

35.        ibid.

36.        ibid.  p.13

37.        ibid.

38.        ibid. 12-13

39.        Odimegwu., F. H  ‘African World-view and African development: Implications         and    challenges   in       a        Globalizing world’.(eds) Umeasiegbu et al, Unizik Journal of Arts and Humanities  (faculty of Arts  NAU 2004). p. 86

40.        Ake C., Democracy and development in Africa. (Washinton D.C:

Brookings institution 1996),p.1 

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