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Theories of Global Development

2. Modernisation Theories

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About this Lecture


In this lecture, we think about early modernisation theories from the mid-twentieth century, focusing in particular on: (i) how we define “modernity” and the assumption in modernisation approaches that the historical experience of the Global North will be followed by the rest of the world; (ii) Walt Rostow’s description in 1960 of the stages of economic growth; (iii) Talcott Parsons’ ideas of traditional and modern societies and their application to development theory; (iv) the importance of development aid and modernisation in Cold War global politics and American efforts to contain Soviet influence in the Global South.


In this course, Professor Katie Willis (Royal Holloway, University of London) explores theories of global development. In the first lecture, we look at development as a contested concept, and at some of the ways it has been defined and measured. In the second lecture, we consider modernisation theories and their development since the Cold War. In the third lecture, we look at their relationship to neoliberalism. Next, we think about dependency and world systems approaches to explaining different levels of development across the world. In the fifth lecture, we look at sustainable development and the incorporation of environmental issues into development theory and practice. In the sixth and final lecture, we turn to post-development theory and the critique of development as a concept.


Professor Katie Willis is Professor of Human Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London. She researches a broad range of issues related to migration, gender and global development. Her publications include Unaccompanied Young Migrants: Identity, Care and Justice (2019) (as co-editor), Geographies of Developing Areas: The Global South in a Changing World (2014) (as co-author), and Theories and Practices of Development (2005).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Willis, K. (2021, August 23). Theories of Global Development - Modernisation Theories [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Willis, K. "Theories of Global Development – Modernisation Theories." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Aug 2021,

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