Development is the key challenge facing human society. The essence of development is to improve the quality of life, yet the striking technological revolutions of recent years have not resulted in better living conditions for most of the world’s population. These contrasts are not limited to comparisons between advanced industrial and developing societies; they are also reflected in starkly differing patterns of development within the third world.

Five broad theoretical perspectives frame much of the literature on regional paths of development: neoclassical economics, world-systems/dependency theories, the developmental state, institutional analysis, and marxism. While these approaches are general in nature, there are marked affinities between individual theories and the experience of particular regions in the third word.

Our review focuses on four third-word regions: Latin America, East Asia, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. East Asia comes out on top according to almost all indicators of economic and social development, followed by Latin America, South Asia, and, at a considerable distance from the rest, Africa. The comparative analysis of the paths of development followed in these regions not only generates useful insights about concrete development processes; it also serves as a tool for refining development heory itself, and points to promising new areas of research.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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