THE CHALLENGE OF WORLD POVERTY: A World Anti-Poverty Program in Outline by Gunnar Myrdal

THE CHALLENGE OF WORLD POVERTY: A World Anti-Poverty Program in Outline

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Developed from Myrdal's 1969 Christian A. Herter Lecture Series at Johns Hopkins, this work is in fact a belated conclusion to his major three-volume study Asian Drama: An Inquiry Into the Poverty of Nations (1968), summarizing the main policy judgments therein and providing the concrete proposals for underdeveloped and developed countries that were missing from that study. The discussion still focuses primarily upon South Asia and particularly India and Pakistan, but with general relevance for the whole underdeveloped world (""The Latin American Powder Keg"" gets special treatment in an appendix). Myrdal views development as ""a movement upward of a whole system of interdependent conditions,"" and the main thrust of his Asian study and this sequel is to emphasize the ""non-economic"" factors in development, the tension between modernizing ideas and traditional valuations, and the prime responsibility of the underdeveloped countries themselves to institute radical social and economic reforms that will foster development. The root problem in these nations is the inequality sustained through social and economic stratification, the unwillingness of the vested interests to institute the necessary thoroughgoing changes, and the political passivity of the masses. Myrdal suggests desirable reforms in agriculture, population policy, and education and then confronts the basic problem of ""social indiscipline"" which prevents meaningful change (laxity, arbitrariness, and corruption in high places; a general inclination to resist public controls and pursue personal interests on the part of the people). Economic scientists are roundly criticized for their biases and simplifications and the developed nations for their insincerity, duplicity, selfishness, and opportunism in dealing with underdeveloped nations. The United States and other economic powers must act under a moral imperative to improve both the quantity and quality of economic aid to developing countries and to encourage the radical internal reforms necessary for economic and social progress. Myrdal's diagnoses are sound, but some of his prescriptions seem far out of reach. Nonetheless, a thoughtful and challenging agenda.

Pub Date: June 23rd, 1970
Publisher: Pantheon