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Compare and Contrast Essay: Brooks vs. Hallward

Unit Code

Words: 1002


In 2010 Haiti was hit by a 7.0 earthquake that led to massive loss of life and severe destruction of property. The earthquake opened up discussions on various podiums regarding the country’s disaster preparedness and poverty. The discussions were mainly centred on the country’s level of development. By and large, Haiti’s vulnerability to the earthquake was associated with preeminent underdevelopment. Haiti did not have the necessary infrastructure, physical or social, to cope with such an enormous earthquake. However, there seems to be great divergence on the cause(s) of Haiti’s underdevelopment, despite being in the rich western hemisphere. David Brooks and Peter Hallward bring out two schools of thought on why Haiti’s underdevelopment.

Thesis Statement

Brooks’ and Hallward’s are characterised by convergent as well as divergent opinions on Haiti’s underdevelopment. Reading into the articles keenly, it is clear that their views can be compared and contrasted in light of the modernisation theory and dependency theory.

Modernisation (David Brooks) vs Dependency (Peter Hallward)

The modernisation theory describes a societal change from traditional/underdeveloped societies to modern societies (Galeano 30). On the other hand, the dependency theory generally endeavours to give reason to the existing underdevelopment of many nations in the world. The theory is based on the nature of interactions among nations. The main argument proposed by the dependency theory is that inequality among nations is an intrinsic part of how the nations interact (Harrison, 228).

Brooks and Hallward state that Haiti’s underdevelopment was as a result of the country’s widespread poverty. They indicate that Haiti was a poor country that lacks the wherewithal to withstand such a devastating earthquake. Brooks states that Haiti had “poorly constructed buildings, bad infrastructure and terrible public services…” Similarly, Hallward puts it, that “as of the 1970’s…most of Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, residents reside in desperate sub-standard informal housing…” They both describe the inept poverty in the country. Under such circumstances it would have been a hard call to expect Haiti to pull itself out of the disaster. Development is the core focus of the modernisation and dependency theories. Both theories point to a gap that exists between the developed world and the underdeveloped world.

Brooks and Hallward argue from a socio-economic front. Brooks indicates that Haiti’s underdevelopment was a result of heightened “social mistrust”. This pulled back the urge to develop, since economic progress was resisted from within the society. On the same vain, Hallward puts it, that the social organisation in the country explains Haiti’s underdevelopment. He believes that the people living in informal houses was not just “natural” or “accidental”. There was a social re-organisation that led to the high poverty levels. This is also reflected in the modernisation and the dependency theories. Modernisation is perceived to involve comprehensive social processes of change. Dependency theory is founded on the need to improve the socio-economic status of people (Harrison, 230). In both theories, social development in emphasised.

Brooks explains Haiti’s underdevelopment from a cultural point of view, while Hallward blames the “international community” for Haiti’s poverty. Brook indicates that Haiti’s underdevelopment stems from intricate “progress-resistant influences”. He particularly blames the voodoo religion, which preaches that life cannot be changed and it would, therefore, make no sense to plan. Under both the modernisation and the dependency theories, religion is likely to influence the ethical conduct of people that is likely to impede development. Also, there is no concern for children’s future life. Once kids are born, they are left on their own, and this becomes tragic when they hit the age of 9 or 10 years. His argument is based on the modernisation theory that is based on sociocultural factors. One of the key assumptions that comes out clearly is the prominence of personalities. Brooks indicates the dominance of the voodoo religion as a key barrier to modernisation. He holds that it is Haitians themselves who are responsible for their poverty. Had they modernised their economy, they could have mitigated the effects of the earthquake.

Hallward, on the other hand, points a finger to the stretched poverty as a deliberate action of the colonial powers that reduced Haiti into dependency. His argument is deeply rooted into the colonial historical aspects that began a long time ago. The colonial masters continued to oppress the country’s inhabitants even after they realised their own independence. The natives were denied the power to rule themselves. In the end, the country was turned into a victim of dependence and postcolonial repression. The country found itself in a situation where it could not survive without depending on the colonial masters. It could be hard to break away from the colonial control. Hallward relates this to lack of participation and people-centeredness that are an integral part of the dependency theory. According to Galeano (32), for there to be successful development, there must be participation from the community. One of the propositions of the dependency theory indicates that the use of resources is controlled by dominant states. Besides, the dependency theory presupposes that development ought not to be based on indicators, such as GDP only, but should also integrate human development.


Brooks’ and Hallward’s divergent perspectives characterise the differences in the modernisation and the dependency theories that explain the same thing, albeit from different viewpoints. However, the extent to which modernisation contributed to the country’s woes is arguable. Haiti had departed from most of its cultural nuances and beliefs. However, Haiti still depended a lot on other developed countries. Therefore, the clear explanation of the country’s poverty largely relates to the country’s prolonged history. Indeed, this is a proposition of the dependency theory. Modernisation could not be jumpstarted if the country was still entangled in dependency. Lipset (42) argues that can well be realised if there is a structural change in the society.

Works Cited

E. Galeano, “Lust for Gold, Lust for Silver” (30-33; 38-49); “King Sugar and Other Agricultural Monarchs” (71-85; 91-96; 100-104) in Eduardo Galeano, The Open Veins of Latin America, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973, RK.

Harrison, Lawrence, “Underdevelopment is a State of Mind” in Seligson, Mitchel and John Passe-Smith (eds.) Development and Underdevelopment. The Political Economy of Global Inequality, Boulder: Lynne Riener, 2008, Fourth Edition (227-235), RK

Lipset, Seymor, “Values, Education and Entrepreneurship,” in Klaren, Peter and Thomas Bossert (eds.), Promise of Development. Theories of Change in Latin America, Boulder: Westview Press, 1986 (39-59), RK.