The fundamental proof of development and social advancement is not found in ubiquitous infrastructure projects, neither is it primarily evidenced by an upward trend in GDP. The litmus test for accurately evaluating and qualifying the developmental state of a nation is conducted by evaluating the prevailing mindsets and worldviews of the people. Since the law of averages must apply in this context, a nation cannot be said to have attained “developed” status simply because it has managed to produce exceptions and outliers i.e. a few stars here and there.
Walter Rodney explained that Development in human society is a many-sided process. At the level of the individual, it implies increased skill and capacity, greater freedom, creativity, self-discipline, responsibility and material well-being. Some of these are virtually moral categories and are difficult to evaluate. However, what is indisputable is that the achievement of any of these aspects of personal development is very much tied to the present social realities, prevailing socio-economic status and national destiny as a whole.
He also gives interesting insight into what Underdevelopment is.
He says underdevelopment is not the absence of development, because nations have developed in one way or another. Underdevelopment makes sense only as a means of comparing levels of development. It is very much tied to the fact that human and social development has been uneven and from a strictly economic view-point some human groups have advanced further by producing more and becoming wealthier.
The moment a nation appears to be wealthier than others, an enquiry is bound to take place as to the reason for the difference. After Britain had begun to surge ahead of the rest of Europe in the 18th century, the famous British economist Adam Smith felt it necessary to look into the causes behind the ‘Wealth of Nations’. At the same time, many Russians were very concerned about the fact that their country was ‘backward’ in comparison with England, France and Germany in the 18th century and subsequently in the 19th century. Today, our main pre-occupation is with the differences in wealth between on the one hand Europe and North America and on the other hand Africa, Asia and Latin America.