The Cultural Question in the Third World Development and Underdevelopment: An Overview

The Cultural Question in the Third World Development and Underdevelopment: An Overview

Ubongabasi Itoro Usoro (University of Uyo, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2574-6.ch012
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An average third world country strives after development. Yet, culture, being the total way of life of the people, has exerted great impact both in the development and underdevelopment of the third world countries. Culture forms the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society. However, where the culture adopted from antiquity opposes the present changing world realities, it becomes a problem of contemporary concerns. Using a descriptive and analytical method, and cultural determinism theory, this chapter examines the role of culture in the development of underdevelopment of the third world countries (a sketch study of Africa). It argues that the cultures that lead to the development of the third world countries will gradually lead to conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Culture and development are essential notations to be reconsidered and re-enforced in the third world. Hence, to attain relevance, both must be complemented. The chapter therefore helps to harness and foster the complementation between culture and development in the third world countries.
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Many researcher have been investigating the effects of globalization process on the culture of the people. In fact, towards the end of the 20th century, there have been some protest movements against globalization on new world economic, political, cultural, technological, religious order, and the way the propagators of a new global world have been assessed. However, little in-depth research has been conducted in a contemporary scholarly perspective, to investigate the pressing influence of Culture in the development and the underdevelopment of the Third World. Hence, the observation of Clammer that:

Debates in development theory have recently swung back to taking seriously the relationship of culture to development, especially in the face of manifest failures of conventional approaches to economic growth and social transformation. This has happened at a moment when, especially within anthropology, the concept of culture itself is undergoing critical examination, and when cultural studies has emerged as a major challenge to anthropology's self-defined specialization in the social-scientific analysis of culture. Few attempts have been made, however, to relate cultural studies and development studies, despite the fact that the relatively recent ‘cultural turn’ in the social sciences has derived largely from the currently fashionable status of cultural studies and its multidisciplinary nature (2005).

Culture cannot be downplayed where development of a people is involved. This paper therefore investigates the effects of culture in the development and underdevelopment of the Third World. Guiso, et al (2006) defined culture as “those customary beliefs and values that ethnic, religious, and social groups transmit fairly unchanged from generation to generation.” However, as the researchers openly admit, this approach is far from being comprehensive and it is largely dictated by the need to facilitate the identification of causal relationships, by focusing on aspects of culture that are inherited and constant over time. This differs from Murdock’s argument, that a culture is the product of learning, not of heredity. He wrote that: “the cultures of the world are systems of collective habits. The differences observable among them are the cumulative product of mass learning under diverse geographic and social conditions (1965).”

However, cultural identity is not fixed. It interacts with history, it is affected by the process of development itself. It is shaped in many ways by the rise and dissemination of technology and scientific ideas. Culture is the complex system of meaning and behavior that defines the way of life for a given group of society. Though culture has complexity with other variables, it is of some relevance for socio-economic development, especially in the Third World countries. Culture and globalization affects and leaves its impact on each other. Sotshangane (2002) says that, culture also refers to the common form of life of a national community which has achieved a common national identity and homogeneous value system and lifestyle, either by the forging of a common identity through processes of industrialization and modernization.

This definition could be extended further to include a broader international form of life, or even societal and political arrangement in terms of which various national and ethnic cultures are accommodated and towards which they contribute. Cultures today are extremely interconnected and entangled with each other. Lifestyles no longer end at the borders of national cultures, but go beyond these, and are found in the same way in other cultures (Sotshangane 2002).

A careful analysis of the above indicates the similarities, and impart of culture and the development. Hence, this article aims at bringing to light the role of culture in the development and underdevelopment of the Third World countries considering a sketch study of Africa; investigating into the concept of the Third World and that of culture; analyzing culture in the Third World; and the role of culture in the underdevelopment of the Third World while explaining in details how the elements of culture assists development.

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