Seminar Papers

Discuss Self reliance Theory And Modernization Theory Of Nation Building Compare And Contrast The Two Theory And Relate Them To The Happening In Nigeria

Discuss Self reliance Theory And Modernization Theory Of Nation Building Compare And Contrast The Two Theory And Relate Them To The Happening In Nigeria


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 Introduction                                     –           –           —         –           –           –           –           1

Self-reliance theory                       –           –           –           –           –           –           –           2

Modernization theory       –           –           –           –           –           –           –           4

Compare and Contrast Self-reliance theory and Modernization theory- 5

Relating self-reliance and modernization theories to the

happening in Nigeria          –           –           –           –           –           –           –           8

Conclusion    –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           11


Modernization and self-reliance are theories that specify the concept of nation-building. These theories reveal valid explanations for both the development and underdevelopment of developed and developing countries. However, in order for one to successfully compare and contrast these theories it is vital to really know the meaning of both theories. According to Matunhu (2011) modernization is about Africa following the developmental footsteps of Europe (largely the former colonizer of Africa).

Mar (2008) defined modernization as a process of transforming from a traditional or underdeveloped society to a modern western society’s way of life. From the definition, modernization is a developmental process that was derived from the steps followed by western countries when they were doing their development.

 Self-reliance is a historical condition that shapes a certain structure of the world economy such that it favours some countries to the detriment of others and limits the development possibilities of subordinate economics a situation in which the economy of a certain group of countries is conditioned by the development and expansion of another economy, to which their own is subjected (Ferraro 1996).

From the definition, self-reliance theory attempts to explain the present underdeveloped state of many nations in the world by examining the patterns of interactions among nations and by arguing that inequality among nations is an intrinsic part of those interactions. In this respect, it is possible to refer to Modernization theory and Self-reliance theory which, being quite different, still have certain similarities in their views on the modern world and relationships between developed and developing countries. Also, they aim to explain development but use different angles. 


Simply put, self-reliance theory attempts to explain the present underdeveloped state of many nations in the world by examining the patterns of interactions among nations and by arguing that inequality among nations is an intrinsic part of those interactions. Self-reliance theory is an approach to understanding the economic development of a country in terms of external influences like political, economic, and cultural effects on national development policies. This theory mainly explains the economic underdevelopment of former colonies and non-industrialized countries.

Self-reliance theory originated in the 1960s through the work of a number of academics and development economists who were particularly concerned over the continuing economic failure of Latin American countries. They dismissed the notions of modernization theory that a lack of development could be attributed to a deficiency in appropriate modernizing values and that exposure to advanced industrial countries could only be of positive benefit to the third world. Instead, they argue that the massive and persistent poverty in countries like Argentina, Peru, Chile and Brazil was caused by exposure to the economic and political influences of the advanced countries (Arkadie (2012).

Self-reliance has been noted by Native American leaders to be the mainstay and way of life that influence the health among Native American people. The purpose of the middle-range theory of Self-Reliance is to articulate a process for promoting well-being with attention to an appreciation for one’s culture. Self-reliance is being true to self and is lived by being responsible, disciplined, and confident while staying connected to one’s cultural roots. The three concepts of self-reliance are (a) being responsible, (b) being disciplined, and (c) being confident. The Theory of Self-Reliance has roots in Native American culture and values.

The premise of the self-reliance theory according to Samir Amin, Immanuel Wallenstein, and Rodney is on the fact that the reason for the underdevelopment of third-world countries is as a result of the incorporation of African economy into the global capitalist system which has been the principal reason for the underdevelopment of third world countries. This was achieved through the activities of Multinational Corporations (MNC).

However, third-world countries in this century should not continue to blame the capitalist nation, but, to look inwardly by harnessing and utilizing mineral and human resources within the country. In other words, there is a need for a change of narrative, to look at development or underdevelopment from the state of the mind. Nigeria for example must take responsibility for its development by fighting corruption comprehensively and focusing on key sectors of the economy for growth and development.

Self-reliance is a conception of development in which peoples of a given society are mobilized in order to transform their physical, technological, political, administrative, economic and social environments, for their general well-being and those of other humans. It is a development strategy that relies mainly on a people’s ability to bring about a self-generating and self-sustaining socio-economic and political system which is problem searching, problem learning, and problem-solving (Kim and Ismail, 2013)


The modernization theory was developed in the 1950s and 1960s as one of the most popular theories that came as the first attempt to articulate the problem of ‘development’ in the ‘South’. The theory explained that for ‘third countries’ to advance, they need to transform their backward ‘traditional’ nature into modern industrial economies, drawing from the Western European experience after the Second World War.

Although the theory of Modernization isn’t at all new and has stemmed from various Enlightenment theories of human progress, in Marx’s modes of production, and various others including Emile Durkheim(Peet and Hartwick,1999), the most recent successor is W.W. Rostow, who in his Stages of Economic Growth (1960) argued that every society in order to be advanced (in technology, politics, and socially)have to go through 5 stages which includes: Traditional societies,  The Preconditions for Take –off, The Take- Off, Drive to maturity, Age Of Mass Consumption. (Rostow, 1960)

According to modernization theory, low-income countries are affected by their lack of industrialization and can improve their global economic standing through:

  1. An adjustment of cultural values and attitudes to work
  2. Industrialization and other forms of economic growth (Armer and Katsillis 2010).

Critics point out the inherent ethnocentric bias of this theory. It supposes all countries have the same resources and are capable of following the same path. In addition, it assumes that the goal of all countries is to be as “developed” as possible (i.e., like the model of capitalist democracies provided by Canada or the United States). There is no room within this theory for the possibility that industrialization and technology are not the best goals.

There is, of course, some basis for this assumption. Data show that core nations tend to have lower maternal and child mortality rates, longer lifespans, and less absolute poverty. It is also true that in the poorest countries, millions of people die from the lack of clean drinking water and sanitation facilities, which are benefits most of us take for granted. At the same time, the issue is more complex than the numbers might suggest. Cultural equality, history, community, and local traditions are all at risk as modernization pushes into peripheral countries. The challenge, then, is to allow the benefits of modernization while maintaining a cultural sensitivity to what already exists.



  • Both self-reliance and Modernization theories came about in the bid to explain the reasons for the ‘under-development’ of the ‘third world’, whatever the meaning of development may be. Interest in development issues is only recent, with both theories only dating back to the fifties and the sixties. Although there is a notable likeness in both theories, they both also differ from one other.
  • Both theories, although one criticizes the other, are solely to explain the reason for poverty and under-development in the ‘third world’.
  • Both theories are ethnocentric in that they both point to the fact that the Western world is dominant, which leaves little room for alternative ways to the development of the ‘Third World’ except the Western way.
  • Both theories underline the relationship between the developed and the under-developed world as being unequal and agree that there is (or at least has to be) some form of dependence on the developed world as they are well off in all aspect of what development is known to be.
  • Both theories are largely oversimplified and narrow. The first fails to take into account the effect of international trade and power relationships on development, while the second ignores real differences in economic and political culture among nations. Both sides worked to exacerbate their differences and cut off rational debate by appealing to emotion and ideology.
  • Both theories underline the dominant position of Western countries in the modern world and leave little room for alternative ways of development but the western one, which is viewed as the only way of the development of the future world in the context of the global economy.
  • It is worthy of mention that both theories are ethnocentric in a way because they practically ignore the possibility of the alternative development of developing countries but, instead they insist that the development of western countries will be still on top.
  • Furthermore, these theories are similar in the sense that, they all state that, the experience of developed countries is followed in terms of development by developing and underdeveloped countries which basically develop in the same direction as developed countries but still they cannot catch the latter up and remain in the rearguard of the world development. More so, there is a notable likeness in both theories because they both give valid and just explanations for development and underdevelopment.


  • Modernization theory is based on Western Ideology, and argues that ‘third world’ countries are to follow and depend on the West in order for them to develop, as this is the only way for them to meet up in the Global world, whilst Self-reliance theory argues that for the LDCS to develop, it is important for them to pull out of the global world, and be self-reliant.
  • In the level of analysis, Modernization theory uses micro-sociological level (individuals and aggregates of individuals, their values, attitudes, and beliefs), in determining the reason for backwardness, whilst the Self-reliance theory uses the macro-sociological level that is mode of production, international trade, political and economic linkages, and group and class conflicts or alliances, in arguing underdevelopment.
  • Modernization theory looks at the nation’s society whilst Self-reliance theory uses the global system to prove its theory.
  • Modernisation theory assumes that undeveloped countries remain so because they have not been industrialized, countries such as Great Britain and France. “Societies are treated as structural functional whole. As such, they are adaptive systems and progress from one evolutionary stage to another. In particular, there is a need for „special entrepreneurs or elite able to offer solutions to the new range of problems. And the stronger the elite the greater the progress.” (Harrison, cited in Costantino 1998). This contrasts with Self-reliance theory which can be seen to form its basis in historical materialism and its critiquing of political economy. Historical materialism criticizes the class divisions it claims are inherent within the capitalist system, which comprises of workers and the owners of the means of production. Historical materialism states that the colonized countries were bought into the global capitalist system as dependencies of their former colonial masters and therefore cannot enter the global capitalist system such as modernization theory suggests. This demonstrates a clear contrast in the two theories.


In relating self-reliance and modernization theories to the happening in Nigeria, it should be pointed out that the arrowhead factors nurturing underdevelopment in Nigeria is poor or bad governance and leadership inertia. In other words, it is on these two issues that other factors (both internal and external) are anchored. What this implies in the words of Nnadozie (2010) is that any attempt to address underdevelopment in Nigeria must be zeroed in on the problem of leadership inertia and bad governance. That Nigeria is overwhelmed by poverty and underdevelopment today can easily be attributed to poor, visionless, inept and selfish leadership.

From the experiences of other continents, including America and Asia which passed through similar historical experiences as Africa such as colonialism and foreign domination, it is evident that their ability to jerk off the yoke of external domination and exploitation and leap into first and middle-class industrialized societies never occurred until their leaders rejected foreign domination by taking concrete steps through their visionary, resilient, selfless and charismatic leadership.

Indeed, the central factor sustaining underdevelopment in Nigeria is squarely a failure of leadership that is, the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the occasion in their responsibility and the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership. Nigeria has been less than fortunate in its leadership, and a fundamental element of this misfortune is the seminal absence of intellectual rigour in the political thought of many of the founding fathers of the country; a proclivity “too pious materialistic wooliness and self-oriented pedestrianism” (Achebe, 1998).

The ways by which the Nigerian leaders have sustained the underdevelopment of the country are as follows: one is the manner Nigerian leaders have been mismanaging the enormous and God-given resources of the country. They waste the wealth of the nation by purchasing foreign and exotic goods and services for themselves, friends and cronies. Secondly, a large junk of that wealth was simply stolen through inflated contracts, fraud, and other dubious methods.

Apart from the direct stealing of public funds, there is also the adoption of the corrupted concepts of development and development projects and programmes by governments in Nigeria, hence investments and public funds are for pecuniary reasons directed by our leaders at white elephant projects and programmes that do not yield dividends or create employment for the people as private interests override public interests. Colossal sums of public money have been lost in his manner. Nigerian leaders who loot their state treasuries often take the monies to foreign banks mostly in Europe and America, thereby depriving the country of even the benefits of reaping from investing the stolen money in the country; as a large chunk of state resources should have been channeled into productive sectors of the economy to strengthen social services, especially in the areas of health, education, infrastructural facilities, and energy is lost through various forms of corrupt practices. The money all end up in the pockets of a few privileged state/government officials and the people are worst off for it (Nnadozie, 2010).

Eranga (2009) wrote that Nigeria is besieged with a huge debt burden and unequal foreign exchange and that her economy is in a state of near-collapse. Despite the debt cancellation by the Paris Club, Nigeria still owes huge debts, as the nation’s total debt stock as at end of 2010 stood at $4.7 billion for external debt and #4.5 trillion for domestic debt (Babajide, 2011). Inflation is on the increase day in and day out, reaching to its peak when it was rated at 10.5 percent in October 2011. Unemployment, statistically given at 4.9 percent in 2007 by Index Mundi (2011) has ravaged the economy to the extent that it has been said that about 64 million Nigerian graduates are unemployed as evidenced by the teeming millions of Nigeria youths roaming the street in utmost despair; Majority of them joining crime and other social vices to make ends meet as they must feed, clothe have a shelter over their head and fend for their immediate families.

These factors are clear indicators of severe underdevelopment in Nigeria when compared to most developing countries of Africa and when consideration is paid to the amount of loot that goes in the higher and highest echelon of our public and political realms. Such categorization has led to the assertion that the Nigerian economy presently is characterized by galloping inflation, unequal foreign exchange rate exasperated by devalued currency and persistent dependence on importation, widespread unemployment, dilapidated infrastructures exemplified in the nature of the Nigeria roads and death conservative nature of Nigerian hospitals, epileptic power supply that has helped crippled all aspect of the societal survival possibility, near-death state of the educational sector leading to an unavoidable brain drain.

Entrepreneurship has died as corruption in the system has left nothing to desire in hard work and labour as youths are now concerned with money-making irrespective of how it comes and who gets hurt in the process. This is why diligence and honesty has been dethroned while dishonesty and greed has been enthroned.  This also explains why merit has died in Nigeria making way for mediocrity (Eme and Emeh, 2012).


Having examined the concept of self-reliance and modernization theory, similarities and differences, as well as its relationship to the Nigerian situation, it can be concluded that, modernization and self-reliance are two sharply different perspectives seeking to explain the same reality. Modernization theory posits that counties go through evolutionary stages and that industrialization and improved technology are keys to forward movements.

Self-reliance theory on the hand sees modernization theory as Eurocentric and patronizing. They provide valuable insights into underdevelopment. They provide a cautionary take on the dangers of attempting to create universal theories. Self-reliance theory depends on the classical economic theory that individuals are rational economic actors different in their behaviour and situation and the modernization theory is dependent on the theory that all nations follow a predetermined historical path.


Achebe, C (1983) The trouble with Nigeria. Enugu; Forth dimension Publishers

Eme, O. I & Emeh, I.E.J (2012) “Bureaucracy and Rural Development; the Role of Public Administration in National Development: The Nigerian Perspective”. Global Journal of Management and Business Research. Volume 12 Issue 4 Version 1.0 March 2012. Pp.19-40.

Eranga O.I (2008), Nigeria @ 48 still underdeveloped. Babajide, 2011

Harrison, D. (1988) The sociology of modernization and development. London. Unwin Hyman Ltd,.

Mar,  M.       S     (2008)    Modernistaion   Vs     Dependence    theory:    Available   at: [Accessed on 12-02-2013

Nnadozie, O.U (2010) External forces, Democracy and underdevelopment in Nigeria; a prognosis. A paper presented at Two-Day International Workshop on global and Regional Hegemonic dilemmas in the South held in Bangkok Thailand between 29th and 30th.

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