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Dependency Theory and the Soviet-East European Hierarchical Regional System: Initial Tests

  • William Zimmerman

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Throughout the post-World War II period, the prevailing paradigm of international politics among Western scholars has assumed that the major task confronting the decisionmakers of all states is achieving security in an anarchic state system. It follows from this assumption that relations between relatively equal superpowers constitute, in Arnold Wolfers's phrase, “the relationship of major tension” in the postwar world. In the 1970s, however, there has been a revival among Western scholars of an alternative perspective on world politics: the theory of economic imperialism, or, as it is usually labeled in the 1970s, “dependency theory.” It is a perspective which focuses on unequal relations between states. In that perspective, “the basic model of international politics [is] the imperialist system that was centered upon states of unequal economic development,“ where “the relationship of major tension was between the developed and underdeveloped economies.“

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References

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1. James R. Kurth, “Testing Theories of Economic Imperialism,” in Steven J. Rosen and James, R. Kurth, eds., Theories of Economic Imperialism (Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath, 1974), p. 3.

2. For recent surveys of the literature see the essays by Karl Deutsch, Andrew Mack, and James Caporaso, in Rosen and Kurth, Theories of Economic Imperialism.

3. Kenneth, Waltz, Man, the State and War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959.

4. Kaufman, Robert R., Chernotsky, Harry I., and Geller, Daniel S., “A Preliminary Test of the Theory of Dependency,” Comparative Politics, 7, no. 3 (April 1975): 303.

5. There is, of course, a sense in which this form of comparison does not allow us to rule out the notion that capitalism, for example, fosters dependent relations. Were one to find that patterns of interaction that were believed to characterize relations among capitalist states are also found, or found in greater measure, to characterize relations among noncapitalist states, a limited construction of that finding would be that there are multiple causes for the occurrence of these relations, rather than that capitalism does not foster these relations. That having been said, it remains the case that, under the conditions specified, the predictive role of socioeconomic structure would be much diminished. David Abernathy, the Stanford African scholar, has given the following example: Suppose we begin with the hypothesis that “Everyone dies under capitalism.” When it turns out, as of course it does, that on examination everyone dies under feudalism and socialism as well, there might well still be a sense in which capitalism is a cause of death but I rather suspect we would find more interesting the search for other, more proximate, causes.

6. I refer here specifically to the USSR, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Poland, Rumania, and, prior to 1961, Albania. For most practical purposes the system is defined organizationally by the Warsaw Treaty Organization and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, though Mongolia, Cuba, and, as of June 1978, Vietnam, are now full members of Comecon.

7. To avoid reiteration of excessively cumbersome phraseology (to wit, “states, the socioeconomic systems of which are capitalist or socialist”) I shall speak of “capitalist” or ” socialist” states or international systems.

8. “Everybody” knows that area studies are always a couple of years behind trends in a discipline. In fact, however, some specialists in Communist studies have been consciously working in the area of dependency theory for some time. With respect to relations between states, see Kenneth, Jowitt, “The Romanian Communist Party and the World Socialist System: A Redefinition of Unity,” World Politics, 23, no. 1 (October 1970): 38–60; an excellent study of internal Soviet relations framed against the backdrop of dependency theory is Grey Hodnett's seminal essay, “Technology and Social Change in Soviet Central Asia: The Politics of Cotton Growing,” in Morton, Henry W. and Tokes, Rudolf, Soviet Politics and Society in the 1970's (New York: The Free Press, 1974.

9. See especially James Caporaso, “Methodological Issues in the Measurement of Inequality, Dependence, Exploitation,” in Rosen and Kurth, Theories of Economic Imperialism, pp. 91-93. I have borrowed heavily from Caporaso's essay though I have not adopted his position that imperialism is a multiplicative relationship involving inequality, dependence, and exploitation.

10. William, Zimmerman, “Hierarchical Regional Systems and the Politics of System Boundaries,” International Organisation, 26, no. 1 (Winter 1972): 18–36. The material in the next two paragraphs borrows heavily from this article.

11. See Radio Free Europe, Romanian Situation Report, February 10, 1976, p. 7, citing Scinteia, September 24, 1975; and RFE, Romanian Situation Report, August 29, 1975, p. 2, for the second statement by Ceausescu, also reported in Scinteia, July 25, 1976.

12. Caporaso, , “Methodological Issues,” p. 100. Caporaso draws in turn on James Lee Ray and J. David Singer, “Measuring the Concentration of Power in the International System,” Sociological Methods and Research, 1, no. 4 (May 1973): 404. For a similar approach, see James Lee Ray and Charles Gochman, “Capability Disparities in Latin America and Eastern Europe,” paper delivered at the 1976 International Political Science Association meeting, August 15-21, 1976, in Edinburgh, Great Britain.

13. James Rosenau, “Pre-theories and Theories of Foreign Policy,” in Farrell, R. Barry, ed., Approaches to Comparative and International Politics (Evanston, III.: Northwestern University Press, 1966).

14. Zbigniew, Brzezinski, The Soviet Bloc (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960).

15. This argument is most fully developed in my study on national-international linkages and Yugoslav political development, now nearing completion and, with respect to Thailand, by Samuel P., Huntington, “Trans-national Organizations in World Politics,” World Politics, 25, no. 3 (April 1973): 36465.

16. The extent to which this section, in particular, is exploratory should be emphasized. Other measures might well be employed. In a larger study other media data could be employed to advantage. For television, see Jeremy, Turnstall, The Media Are American (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977 ; and Tapio, Varis, “Global Traffic in Television,” Journal of Communication, 24, no. 1 (Winter 1974): 102–9.

17. Radio Free Europe, Polish Situation Report, January 30, 1976, p. 5.

18. Ibid., p. 6; see also RFE, Polish Situation Report, February 20, 1976.

19. Valerie Bunce and John Echols, “Aggregate Data in the Study of Policy Change in Communist Systems,” paper presented at AAASS annual meeting, October 8-11, 1975, in Atlanta, Georgia

20. Caporaso, “Methodological Issues,” p. 100.

21. Paul Marer, “Soviet Economic Policy in Eastern Europe,” in Reorientation and Commercial Relations of the Economies of Eastern Europe, Joint Economic Committee, Congress of the United States, 93rd Congress, 2nd Session (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1974), p. 144.

22. Edward, Hewett, Foreign Trade Prices in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (London: Cambridge University Press, 1974.

23. Harvey, Starr, “A Collective Goods Analysis of the Warsaw Pact After Czechoslovakia,” International Organisation, 28, no. 5 (Summer 1974): 521–32.

24. On the exploitation of the powerful in the Comecon and OAS contexts, see Zimmerman, “Hierarchical Regional Systems.”

25. Janos, Horvath, “The Cost of Soviet Aid,” Problems of Communism, 21, no. 3 (May-June 1972): 76–77; and Marer, “Soviet Economic Policy.”

26. Marer, “Soviet Economic Policy,” p. 150. In the version of Marer's paper which appears in the Rosen and Kurth volume, this passage does not appear.

27. For such a study, see Donna Bahry and Cal Clark, “A Dependence Theory of Soviet- East European Relations: Theory and Empirical Testing,” paper presented at the Conference on Integration in Eastern Europe and East-West Trade, October 28-31, 1976, in Bloomington, Indiana.

28. Zimmerman, “Hierarchical Regional Systems.”

29. Thomas E. Heneghan, “Polish Trade and Polish Trends, Economic and Political Considerations,” Radio Free Europe, Research, November 13, 1975, p. 18.

30. Ibid., p. 13.

31. New York Times, August 10, 1976.

32. Kent N. Brown, “Coalition Politics and Soviet Influence in Eastern Europe,” paper presented at AAASS annual meeting, October 6-8, 1976, in St. Louis, Missouri.

33. William Zimmerman, “The Energy Crisis, Western ‘Stagflation’ and the Evolution of Soviet-East European Relations,” paper presented at the Conference on the Impact of International Economic Disturbances on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, the Wilson Center, Washington, D.C., September 24-26, 1978.

Dependency Theory and the Soviet-East European Hierarchical Regional System: Initial Tests

  • William Zimmerman

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