Rostow and the Stages of Economic Growth Essay Sample

Rostow and the Stages of Economic Growth Pages
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One of the key thinkers in twentieth century Development Studies was W.W. Rostow, an American economist and government official. Prior to Rostow, approaches to development had been based on the assumption that “modernization” was characterized by the Western world (wealthier, more powerful countries at the time), which were able to advance from the initial stages of underdevelopment. Accordingly, other countries should model themselves after the West, aspiring to a “modern” state of capitalism and a liberal democracy. Using these ideas, Rostow penned his classic Stages of Economic Growth in 1960, which presented five steps through which all countries must pass to become developed and these are traditional society, preconditions to take-off, take-off, drive to maturity, and age of high mass consumption. The model asserted that all countries exist somewhere on this linear spectrum, and climb upward through each stage in the development process:

Traditional Society: This stage is characterized by a subsistent, agricultural based economy, with intensive labor and low levels of trading, and a population that does not have a scientific perspective on the world and technology. Traditional societies are marked by their pre-Newtonian understanding and use of technology. These are societies which have pre-scientific understandings of gadgets, and believe that gods or spirits facilitate the procurement of goods, rather than man and his own ingenuity. The norms of economic growth are completely absent from these societies Preconditions to Take-off: Here, a society begins to develop manufacturing, and a more national/international, as opposed to regional, outlook.

The preconditions to take-off are, to Rostow, that the society begins committing itself to secular education, that it enables a degree of capital mobilization, especially through the establishment of banks and currency, that an entrepreneurial class form, and that the secular concept of manufacturing develops, with only a few sectors developing at this point. This leads to a take off in ten to fifty years. At this stage, there is a limited production function, and therefore a limited output. There are limited economic techniques available and these restrictions create a limit to what can be produced. Take-off

Rostow describes this stage as a short period of intensive growth, in which industrialization begins to occur, and workers and institutions become concentrated around a new industry. Take-off then occurs when sector led growth becomes common and society is driven more by economic processes than traditions. At this point, the norms of economic growth are well established. In discussing the take-off, Rostow’s is a noted early adopter of the term “transition”, which is to describe the passage of a traditional to a modern economy. After take-off, a country will take as long as fifty to one hundred years to reach maturity. Drive to Maturity: This stage takes place over a long period of time, as standards of living rise, use of technology increases, and the national economy grows and diversifies. The sectors of the economy which lead initially begin to level off, while other sectors begin to take off. This diversity leads to greatly reduced rates of poverty and rising standards of living, as the society no longer needs to sacrifice its comfort in order to strengthen certain sectors. Age of High Mass Consumption: At the time of writing, Rostow believed that Western countries, most notably the United States, occupied this last “developed” stage.

Here, a country’s economy flourishes in a capitalist system, characterized by mass production and consumerism. The age of high mass consumption also refers to the period of contemporary comfort afforded many western nations, wherein consumers concentrate on durable goods, and hardly remember the subsistence concerns of previous stages. Rostow uses the Buddenbrooks dynamics metaphor to describe this change in attitude. In Thomas Mann’s novel, Buddenbrooks, a family is chronicled for three generations. The first generation is interested in economic development, the second in its position in society. The third, already having money and prestige, concerns itself with the arts and music, worrying little about those previous, earthly concerns. So too, in the age of high mass consumption, a society is able to choose between concentrating on military and security issues, on equality and welfare issues, or on developing great luxuries for its upper class. CONCLUSION

Each country in this position chooses its own balance between these three goals.The stages just show which stage the country is going through and also shows what is expected of it. .

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