Philosophy Faculty Publications


Underdevelopment and the Problem of Causation

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Journal of Social Philosophy


Underdevelopment is the most controversial issue of our time. In a world which apparently exhibits so much power and yet does so little to drive it back, it represents the challenge par excellence. However, concerning this most pressing and controversial issue of underdevelopment, of all the disciplines which study man, philosophy is the one which until now said the least. At first sight, to mark off in the topic of underdevelopment an area of real philosophical concern does not seem feasible indeed.

Underdevelopment understood as a mere failure of development appears to be within the competence of the disciplines of the social sciences, especially of economics, rather than that of philosophy. Viewed as a technical problem, it could thereby be declared outside the sphere of direct philosophical inquiry.

But this reason is no sooner accepted than it comes up against itself by the very nature of the conflicts in which the social sciences got bogged down in their attempt to understand underdevelopment. Although not directly spelt out, the conflicts are unmistakably pervaded throughout by philosophical questions. It suffices to point out the main cause of the theoretical split which divides scholars, in the general issue of tradition and modernity, to really bring out the eminently philosophical nature of the debate. We are obviously referring to the conflict between modernization theory and the neo-Marxist school.

The purpose of this paper is precisely to show that the topic of underdevelopment, not only raises one of the basic and oldest problems of philosophy, namely the nature of the connection between the spiritual and the material, but also helps positively to reformulate it.

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John Wiley & Sons





Peer Reviewed