Monday, July 16, 2007
Capitalist development in the Third World manifests two contrasting pictures: one shows a center dominated by developed countries and a periphery crowded by un- and underdeveloped countries, while one shows an expansion that turns Third World countries into developed nations. Six examples of such newly-industrialized countries (NICs) are East Asian nations Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea and Latin American nations Brazil and Mexico. From mere suppliers of raw materials and agricultural products, these NICs became exporters of industrial products that led them to the developed center.
With such rapid economic growth in the NICs, there were substantial improvements in the standards of living of their population mass, from life expectancy, infant mortality and literacy. These achievements seemed enough for optimists to equate growth with development and for these NICs to be considered as models of development in the Third World.
However, the NIC model is criticized for the superexploitation of the labor force, the neglect of agriculture, ecological deterioration, the reign of authoritarianism, and the fragility of the capitalist development. Seeing that low wages, long hours of work, union repression, intensified export-oriented industrialization, air and water pollution, sub-democratic political regimes and risks to economic stability hound NICs, it seems to me that there are more negative consequences to capitalist development in the Third World than positive ones. As such, it proves true the “disarticulated model of peripheral capitalism.” This may not be true to East Asian NICs which exhibit several traits of capitalist development at the center, but then circumstances in these NICs helped accelerate their capitalist condition. Some of these bases include agricultural modernization preceding capitalist industrialization, destruction or absence of feudal landowning class to facilitate capital accumulation, their state’s role in concentrating the capital, the creation of free wage labor that develops capitalism and the subsequent raise in wages and productivity. They are somewhat lucky to have overcome obstacles to capitalist development like existing pre-capitalist classes with anti-reform powers, state that fails to make resources productive, labor force repression and slow increase in wages.
The Philippines, while geographically an East Asian country by consideration, does not enjoy the circumstances that brought its neighbors to the center of capitalist development. It still languishes in peripheral capitalism and despite the trickles of industrialization and modernization, the criticisms on NICs are menacingly present here. The country can advance to the center but obstacles common in all un- and underdeveloped nations should be overcome first, a process that is not easy to perform. Should I become a capitalist myself, I hope to help the country achieve considerable growth from capitalist development by providing just working conditions and compensation to my laborers, because the removal of this oppression can give way to other changes.