Modernization Theory and the Metaphor of the Development Ladder

Harvard Africa Policy Journal (2018)

9 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2018 Last revised: 20 Mar 2018

Date Written: January 20, 2018


This article critically analyzes the popular metaphor of the "Development Ladder" within the theory of modernization. What assumptions underpin this metaphor and what problems are associated with the theory itself? I use the work of Sachs as a modern example of a text that relies extensively on the metaphor. I discuss the key assumptions informing the modernization theory and the metaphor of the Development Ladder. Next, I problematize the metaphor as rooted within modernization theory, discuss the assumptions of modernization theory, the implication of globalization on Africa and its relationship to the global market, and present and discuss the problems of historicity in development discourse.

Keywords: Development Ladder, Theory of Modernization, Globalization, Development, Africa, Economic Growth, Global Market, Millennium Development Goals, Millennium Villages, Poverty

Suggested Citation

Zambakari, Christopher, Modernization Theory and the Metaphor of the Development Ladder (January 20, 2018). Harvard Africa Policy Journal (2018), Available at SSRN:

Christopher Zambakari (Contact Author)

The Zambakari Advisory, LLC ( email )

P.O. Box 18691
Phoenix, AZ ARIZONA (AZ) 85005
United States
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