Recent studies of development in Africa reflect the broad ideological gulf between the perspectives of classical capitalist developmentalists and neo-Marxist dependency theorists. In the capitalist view, development is seen as a problem of modernization (i.e., westernization). Marxists, on the other hand, perceive the underdevelopment of the third world as a product of western development and the emergence of the world capitalist system. In an effort to inject an empirical element into this ideological debate several analysts have undertaken comparative examinations of the merits of the alternative approaches (Kaufman et al., 1975; McGowan, 1975; 1976; Vengroff, 1975; 1976; Walleri, 1975; Stallings, 1973; Chase-Dunn, 1975).
A general examination of the relative merits of the developmental and dependency approaches is beyond the scope of this brief paper. Here die author will attempt to assess the utility of these conflicting approaches as explanations of the particular phenomenon of domestic inequality in black Africa. The question of domestic inequality and development in Africa has unfortunately received only limited empirical consideration (Vengroff, 1976) and then usually from a national rather than a cross-national perspective (Leys, 1973; Harris, 1975).
Proponents of capitalist theory suggest that inequality is a natural, short run outcome of the development process. As the level of development increases, there is a broad expansion of the middle class, and hence a decline in inequality (Adelman and Morris, 1973; Paukert, 1973).