Social-Psychological Theories

In the dualism and (economic) strategy theories discussed so far, underdevelopment and development are explained by economic factors alone while individual or group values and motivations are neglected. The social-psychological theories consider these very factors as main determinants of underdevelopment and development. Thus, they add a new component to the discussion. Because they reduce the causes to aspects of one discipline, like economic theories, they are partial explanations as well.

  • Sociological Explanation of Socioeconomic Change
    One of the earliest and widely discussed concept is Weber’s treatise “Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism” in which he combines Psychological & Sociological variables with economic development. Because of its determination of the value systems of societies, he put primary importance on religion. According to Weber, the Protestant religion was a precondition for capitalistic development for two reasons: Protestant ethics led to an ascetic life style which, instead of advocating affluence, reinvested the proceeds. As well, it is the basis of rationalism and goal achievement behavior. While a value system which motivates economic development can hardly be limited to Protestantism Weber’s stress on values and the resulting motivation influenced later thought.
  •  Theory of Social Change
    Based on the assumption that a level of development is correlated with achievement motivation, this theory attempts to explain why this achievement motivation varies between societies and their classes and strata. It argues that in traditional societies the status of individuals is fixed. Children learn to act according to established norms, and deviations (initiative!) are punished. If by external influences a new group gains power, the status of the old elite is challenged and weakened. The insecurity and frustration leads to changed behavior which has consequences on the family structure. Children tend to become dissatisfied with the society and readily accept new values. In time, they become innovative personalities. If these persons become dominant
    groups in the society, this causes economic development. Similar phenomena may happen as far as the changing situation of marginal groups or minorities is concerned.
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