The dependent underdevelopment

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Comment on the concept presented by Celso Furtado1

The concepts are linked to the logic of their time, to the historical context in which they were created and (ex)posed for verification. In order to identify whether the concept dialogues with the present time, therefore, whether it remains with relative analytical-explanatory capacity beyond its time, we must verify whether the elements that constitute it remain with this capacity. If its constitutive elements lose, over the movement of the present time, the ability to dialogue with the new context, the concept crystallizes in the past tense (in its time) and loses its analytical-explanatory capacity in the present tense.

On the contrary, if the constitutive elements of the concept remain as dialogically intertwined axes and sustain their analytical-explanatory capacity in the present time, the concept itself (the concept) expands in relational density with the contexts (historical between times), asserts itself and, as a result of its relationship with the present time, it is transformed. The paradox expressed is that of the affirmation of something that is no longer what it used to be. So it's not the same concept anymore. It is and it is not, being.

The constitutive elements of the concept give conditions to its essence and, throughout and at the end of its formatting, condition its characteristics. They are, therefore, characteristics attributed and acquired along the trajectory of its constitution as a concept.

As these elements, as formative characteristics of the concept, sustain themselves, therefore, assert themselves between times (different historical moments), time itself is subject to evaluation. It is a time proper to the concept and not a time that attributes to the concept analytical-explanatory capacity or not. The concept is given the ability to attribute to the historical moment the condition of being a moment of its own.

It (the concept) conquers a dense analytical-explanatory capacity not only because it relates to the present time (which is another), but because the structural conditions that demarcated its existence in the past have not changed in essence, in this present time . It is, so to speak, a concept reaffirmed at the same time as the essence of its constitution. It is the original concept, thought and materialized in the past, with characteristics of its time and correlated with the dynamics of the present time, which presents in its essence the constraints of its creation and materialization.

The identification that the process of capitalist development generates combined inequalities (between peoples, countries), transforming them into a necessary and structural element of the global economy (Santos, 2011), and that this characteristic is expressed (is affirmed) in different periods in the last three centuries (Myrdal, 1972; Fiori, 2000; Chang, 2003), contributes to what was stated above: the concept remains correlated to its time-essence and not to its chronological time.

The concepts of underdevelopment and dependency, created at a given historical moment as a theoretical effort capable of constituting an analytical-explanatory apparatus specific to countries that were verified as resulting from the process of unequal development, concentrator of wealth and exploitation of labor ( characteristic elements and pillars of the expansion of capitalist social relations), face a new historical moment of this development, but immersed in the same operating logic.

They are concepts conceived and materialized in a past-time, in a moment of capital accumulation logic that differs from the current one, in terms of its constitutive appearance, but which carry characteristics attributed and acquired by the time of the development of capitalist social relations. Therefore, it is worth emphasizing the concept of underdevelopment "as a creation of development, that is, as a consequence of the impact, on a large number of societies, of technical processes and forms of division of labor radiated from the small number of societies that had joined the industrial revolution in its initial phase, that is , until the end of the XNUMXth century.” (Furtado, 2003, p. 88). Therefore, “(…) a capitalist and not simply historical formation” (Oliveira, 2003, p.33).

The concept of dependency is constituted in "a situation in which the economy of certain countries is conditioned by the development and expansion of another economy to which it is subordinate” (Santos, 2011, p.5). Or, the dependency is "understood as a relationship of subordination between formally independent nations, within which the production relations of subordinated nations are modified or recreated to ensure the expanded reproduction of dependence”. (Marini, 2000, p. 109).

In this way, development is understood, in a descriptive way of society, as “[the] set of transformations in social structures and forms of behavior that accompany accumulation in the production system. This describes a cultural and historical process whose dynamics is based on technical innovation (...), placed at the service of a system of social domination”. (Furtado, 1978, p.57).

In summary and overlapping, development, underdevelopment and dependence refer to “accumulation subordinated to the logic of a system of material incentives” (Furtado, 1978, p. 64), present the economic, political and social problems that derive from it and make reference“to the process of diffusion of industrial civilization within the context of external dependence (...) indirect access to industrial civilization – the starting point of dependency relations – is significantly reflected in the content of the cumulative process (...)” (Furtado, 1978, p. 64).

The notion of underdevelopment, constituted by the Latin American tradition exposed in the previous paragraphs, I think to consider: primeiro, as a property of the object, that is, as a category. By understanding it as a category, dependent-underdevelopment becomes a characteristic of the observable whole: capitalist development, in terms of an international division of labor, with the potential to express the foundation of its functioning and the ability to delineate its trajectory as real-concrete movement; at the same time that makes it a fundamental characteristic (and itself) of one part: Brazilian capitalist development.Second, as a construct of current social relations, due to its analytical capacity, as a forceful concept and not out of tune with explanatory capacity. Therefore, a concept category.

Thus, the concept of dependent underdevelopment conquers here, a dense analytical-explanatory capacity not only because it relates to the present time (which is different from that of its constitution), but because the structural conditions that demarcated its existence in the past time have not changed in substance (in this present tense).

Celso Furtado, as a centenary exponent of the construction of Brazilian economic, social and political thought, is a category-concept in the trajectory of the development of Brazilian dependent underdevelopment. A hail to the master in this month of July, present time configured in a sanitary-economic-civilizing shock, catalyst of the time-essence of social inequalities provided by the Brazilian subordinated accumulation.

* Marcelo Jose Moreira is professor of economic history at the State University of Goiás (UEG).

1 This essay contains extracts from Section I, Part I of the author's doctoral thesis.


Chang, Ha-Joon (2003). Kicking up the ladder: development strategy in historical perspective. Sao Paulo: UNESP.

Fiori, Jose Luis (2000). Back to the question of the wealth of some nations. In: Fiori, JL (org). States and currencies in the development of nations. Rio de Janeiro: Voices.

Furtado, Celso (1978). Creativity and dependency in industrial civilization. Rio de Janeiro: Peace and Land.

Furtado, Celso (2003). Roots of underdevelopment. Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization.

Marini, Ruy Mauro(2000). Dialectic of dependency. In: SADER, Emir (Org.). An anthology of the work of Ruy Mauro Marini. Petrópolis: Voices; Buenos Aires: CLACSO.

Myrdal, Gunnar (1972). Economic theory and underdeveloped regions. Rio de Janeiro: Saga.

Oliveira, Francisco de (2003). Criticism of Dualistic Reason – The Platypus. Sao Paulo: Boitempo Editorial.

Santos, Theotônio dos (2011). The dependency structure. In: Magazine of the Brazilian Society of Political Economy. 40 years of addiction theory. Sao Paulo, no. 30, 5-18.

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