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Gender and Development: Rethinking Modernization and Dependency Theory

Catherine V. Scott
ISBN: 978-1-55587-664-7
1996/151 pages/LC: 94-22223
Women and Change in the Developing World

"Challenges assumptions held by both liberal and Marxist positions that what is good for the individual (male) is good for all (female) citizens."—Shelley Feldman, Journal of Developing Areas

"Sophisticated and compelling."—Choice

"An important step in challenging claims to objectivity and 'science' in political analyses of development."—American Political Science Review

"Scott effectively explores the influence of social constructions of gender differences in contemporary definitions of development, dependency, capitalism, and socialism.... Essential reading for all development practitioners and professionals."—Choice


Scott demonstrates that many prevailing ideas about development, dependency, capitalism, and socialism are anchored in the social constructions of gender differences.

Early modernization theorists, points out Scott, often juxtaposed modernity and tradition in ways reminiscent of Enlightenment dichotomies that pitted the rational, productive city against the particularistic, fragmented, and stagnant countryside. Dependency theory, despite its radically different focus on the causes of underdevelopment, also rests upon masculinist conceptions of the unfolding of history, human labor, and the gendered divisions between the public and private realms. Recent theories of the African "soft state," realized in policymaking, revive modernization theory's dichotomies; and revolutionary political leaders in African countries, though they have challenged imperialism, have retained the Marxist blindspot regarding gender.

This provocative critique of both theory and practice goes beyond the "women in development" approach to explore fundamental reconceptualizations of tradition, modernity, masculinity, femininity, revolution, and development.


Catherine Scott is associate professor of political science at Agnes Scott College.


  • Rereading Modernization and Dependency Theory.
  • Tradition and Gender in Modernization Theory.
  • From Modernization Theory to the "Soft State" in Africa.
  • Gender and the World Bank: Modernization Theory in Practice.
  • Marxism, Masculinity, and Dependency Theory.
  • Contradictions in the Challenges to Dependency: The Roots of Counterrevolution in Southern Africa.
  • Rethinking Gender and Development.