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Tránsitos materiales e inmateriales entre África, Latinoamérica y El Caribe

César Ross
Mbuyi Badi Kabunda

Tercera Parte. El movimiento de flujos inmateriales

The cepalist-dependency thought in sub-Saharan Africa: A quantitative approach1

César Ross

Texte intégral


  • 1 This work is the partial and initial result of a project funded by FONDECYT entitled "El Pensamien (...)

1The purpose of this work is to address the ECLAC’s (Economic Commission for Latin America and The Caribbean) economic influence on African thinkers corresponding to the period 1960-1980.

  • 2 Bielschowsky, Ricardo “Evolución de las ideas de la CEPAL”, in Revista de CEPAL, extraordinary edi (...)

2As Ricardo Bielschowsky has synthesized, the essence of this thought is in the "crossing between an essentially historical and inductive method, on the one hand, and, on the other, its own abstract theoretical reference: the structuralist theory of Latin American peripheral underdevelopment".2

  • 3 Ibid., p.

3Without a doubt, to speak of the way of thinking of ECLAC involves pointing out to a certain variety of approaches referred to as historical stages, with different emphasis that Bielschowsky himself has identified quite clearly3. Using this classification for the period researched by this study, we can see at least three moments, that is, 1948-1960 (industrialization), 1960s (developmentalist reforms) and the decade of 1970 (styles of growth).

4However, for the purposes of this work, which is limited to the time mentioned, it should be noted that the cepalist-dependency thought shall be understood as a set of ideas centered on the interpretation of the nature and characteristics of the relationship between the rich countries (central) and the poor ones (peripherals), a link examined through three fundamental categories, such as (a) economic structure of the "centerperiphery"; (b) development; and (c) dependency.

5In the same way, this paradigm is represented by those who contributed to it by working formally in ECLAC, and by those who did so outside of this area, but in dialogue with what was thought there. Obviously this is not only about Latin American intellectuals.

6For this purpose, it was decided to determine this presence through the quantitative estimate of the references (bibliography, quotes and notes) that were made to these "cepalist-dependency" in the different publications where both, "Africans" and "Africanists" authors, presented their thoughts. Their work is the material on which this study was developed.

7To develop this study, we analyzed around 200 documents, such as magazine articles, books (complete) and chapters. From all of them, only the lists of texts that expressly show cepalist-dependency in the bibliography were selected, while the authors who used the ideas but did not credit these sources were excluded. This strict selection criterion was applied in order to leave no space for ambiguity about this point. The reference to the ideas is an issue that will be addressed in another publication.

8It could be said that the main type of sources has been of a serial nature. Among these, the six most important ones are listed below:

  1. IDS Bulletin, (edited by the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex)
  2. Africa Development, (Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi)
  3. Thirth World Quarterly, (Thirth World Foundation)
  4. Journal of Modern African Studies, (University of Cambridge)
  5. Development and Peace, (World Peace Council)
  6. Revista Internacional de Ciencias Sociales, (UNESCO)

9In addition, other magazines, such as El Trimestre Económico, Development and International Cooperation, and others were reviewed but with less consistent results.


10In a strictly quantitative examination, it could be argued that the presence of the cepalist-dependency thinkers in the texts of Africans/Africanists seems quite minor. However, there are interesting nuances emerging that have to do with the qualitative contribution of a few cepalist authors, whose ideas are quoted few times with references in the footer but seem to have been used more frequently than what the appointments, notes and bibliographies show.

  • 4 The project that supports these first results will be completed by the year 2006.

11This presentation, however, is partly the result of a project whose temporary and investigative scope is even greater4. The 2004 work plan was devoted to detecting and quantifying this presence. The list of results is presented below.

12The first entry was focalized to a more detailed analysis of the six serial publications already mentioned, while the second focused on compiling a study of the most cited authors.

1. Serial publication

IDS Bulletin

13This journal deserves a lot of attention because by the time of the analysis, 12.3% of the references were related to ECLAC intellectuals. In fact, of a total of 106 references, 13 were "cepalists". It is worth mentioning that, among these, there were six notes and five quotes, revealing the use of the ideas. Here, the quoted authors were mainly Raúl Prebisch and Osvaldo Sunkel.

14Prebisch’s quoted works are "Statement to Consultative Meeting on Trade Policy" (October 1963), "Towards a New Trade Policy for Development" (1964) and "UNCTAD: The First Twenty Years” (1984). Paradoxically, his pioneering studies of the late 1940s and the beginning of the following decade are not quoted.

15Sunkel’s cited works are "Transnational Capitalism and National Disintegration in Latin America" (1973) and "External Economics Relationships and the progress of development" (1974).

Africa Development

16Paradoxically, this publication, whose title contains one of the most emblematic categories of ECLAC thought, registered only one note among 99 references.

17The quoted researcher was Celso Furtado with his book "Underdevelopment and Dependence: The fundamental connection" (1973).

Third World Quarterly

18Inspired by a specific current of peripheral thought or of "Third World" paradigm, it exhibits a very small "cepaline" presence. Probably, because the theoretical inspiration, although equivalent, is tilted in another direction.

19Out of 290 references, only three relate to Latin American authors included in this school of thought.

Journal of Modern African Studies

20As in the previous publications, the presence of ECLAC thinkers in this journal was low. In spite of everything, the works of these authors were found in quotes and notes, showing that their categories of analysis were employed in the construction of the ideas and not only as backup in the bibliography.

21Of the 820 references analyzed, only nine (1.0%) corresponded to ECLAC intellectuals. Among these, a varied sample of researchers was cited. This last one included André G. Frank (“Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America”, 1969); Theotonio Dos Santos (“The Structure of Dependence”, 1970); Gabriel Palma (“Dependency: Formal Theory of Underdevelopment or a Methodology for the Analysis of Concrete Situations of Underdevelopment”, 1978); Fernando H. Cardoso (“Dependency and Development in Latin America”, 1972); Raúl Prebisch (“Towards a New Trade Policy for Development”, 1964); and Osvaldo Sunkel (“National Development Policy and External Dependence in Latin America”, 1969).

22Without doubt, and despite the presence of André G. Frank, this sample of authors-so representative of the Latin American thought-reveals that in this magazine and around it there was some movement of the ideas that we seek to highlight in this chapter.

Development and Peace

23Contrary to the expectations, this journal, which falls within one of the previously most emblematic categories of the ECLAC way of thinking (“Development”), contains only one reference to their authors. The intellectual cited was Osvaldo Sunkel and his work was “Transnational Capitalism in Latin America” (1973).

Revista Internacional de Ciencias Sociales

24This is one of the publications of the United Nations circuit but it only contains six references to the aforementioned authors. From a total of 116 references, 5.2% corresponded to the target group and these were present only in the bibliography section. It is very likely that the weight of this thought is quite lower here.

25In it, there are three citedresearcher, which are Gabriel Palma (“Dependency and Development: a critical overview”, 1981); Raúl Prebisch (“Hacia una Dinámica del Desarrollo Económico”, 1963); and María C. Tavares (“Más Allá del Estancamiento”, 1974).

2. African and Africanists

  • 5 Stallings, Barbara (1972), Economic Dependency in Africa and Latin America, Beverly Hills: Sage Pu (...)

26Based on the analysis that has been performed of the material included in the bibliography section, it is possible to assert that the category of Africans and Africanists is still controversial. It is not only a question of geopolitical or cultural identity but it also relates to the specialization of authors born in different parts of the world and whose object of study is Africa. In this latter sense, we also debated about including those who did several works or not so relevant titles and those, such as Barbara Stallings5, who published only one work, whose quality makes it an obligatory reference. To be certain, we are in the middle of the quantification and we are only beginning the refinement of the categories that we use here in a preliminary way. In this part we seek to answer three questions, that is, who makes reference to cepalists, how and in which structure are the references made and who quotes these African authors and Africanists?

27The analyzed information reveals some trends. First, that the bulk of references correspond to "notes", while the categories of "bibliography" and "quotes" occupy a much smaller quantity. Second, there are around six authors who referred most often to the cepalists (Table No. 2). With regard to the first trend, almost 63% of the references correspond to notes, meaning explanations or clarifications African/Africanist researcher used to develop their ideas, which were based on the work production of ECLAC intellectuals. Similarly, the remaining 31% corresponds to bibliographical references, indicating a connection, although more indirect, between the ideas presented and the works of the cepalists. The quotes, however, appear very tangentially (only seven) and point out that, even the postulates of ECLAC were employed as foundation, they were not stated verbatim, which. This last may indicate a distance associated with an eventual reprocessing of these ideas or linked to a distance dissenting or, finally, to a style of none or little quotation, as is the case of Samir Amin. These questions will be answered in future stages, when we will carefully examine the degrees of reworking of the ideas that, for now, we are simply trying to identify. With regard to the second trend, it is noted that the author who made the most references was Colin Leys, who accounts for 18% of them. The collective works of Pierre Jacquenot and Marc Raffinot appear in the second place, with over 14% of the total. Then, comes Yves Lacoste (7.63%) and Claude Ake (5.93%). From this preliminary examination, it can be concluded that there is a high degree of concentration and this should lead us to consider the influence of the thinkers of ECLAC as a qualitative impact, rather than one of a quantitative nature. With this in mind, the degree of impact of these Africans in their own academic and political spheres should be examined with the utmost care, in order to observe the potential transfer of the ideas that they took from the socalled cepalists.

Table No. 1 Africa and Africanist authors*

Table No. 1 Africa and Africanist authors*

3. Cepalist-dependency intellectuals

28While assessing the influence of ECLAC´ s authors as sources, it is crucial to determine which of these were most used by Africans and Africanists. As it might be expected, the African and Africanist researchers that exerted a higher level of impact within Latin America also demonstrated a higher gravitation towards the authors referred to above. In a decreasing order, the intellectuals most used were André G. Frank (first and foremost); Fernando H. Cardoso and Celso Furtado (second place); Raúl Prebisch (thirdly); and Osvaldo Sunkel (fourth place position).

Table No. 2 Presence of ECLAC authors

Table No. 2 Presence of ECLAC authors

Source: Compiled by author, based on the analysis of the sources underlined at the beginning of this article and indicated in the section of the bibliography of this same work.

29It can be seen that the five people mentioned accounted for more than 77% of the references in the preliminary sample, revealing a trend. Clearly, the ideas of all of these authors, but especially the quoted ones, appear at a level of preeminence.

4. Who references to whom?

  • 6 Devés, Eduardo (2011), El pensamiento africano sudsahariano. Desde mediados del siglo XIX a la act (...)

30While contemplating this question, we find an interesting landscape that is complemented by the work of professor Eduardo Devés6, in order to identify specific cepalist-dependency researcher and the African and/or Africanist who orbit around them. Preliminarily, it is possible to display the first intersection of the data listed above.

Table No. 3 Who references whom?

Table No. 3 Who references whom?

31From this first systematization it is possible to conclude that, indeed, there was a certain collection of well-known cepalist-dependency authors and those who were more usually quoted in the entire world. At the same time, there was a dispersion that accounts for a more tenuous, but also more extensive broadcast perceived in the circulation of ideas of the ECLAC’s intellectuals who were less known and those in the African and/or Africanist whose production was also lower.

32The meaning of these intellectual connections is still to be revealed, but a context of greater complexity in the field of movement and the transfer of ideas is already being perceived.


33In summary, the conclusions of this work can be summarized in six points:

34First, the presence of ECLAC thinkers in the African thought is more qualitative than quantitative. The evidence reveals that while the African and Africanist authors used references from leftist intellectuals, who advocated for the rights of the weak and, by extension, for the interests of Africans, it used the ideas and the Latin American experience as an historical reference of a region with a colonial past, which had been emancipated in the 19th century and that in the 20th century was struggling to liberate themselves from the influence of the United States, which was erected as the hegemonic power.

35Second, in the prepared sample there is an appreciable concentration of titles, which may indicate that the thoughts that were present and, eventually, in circulation, were primarily contained in these works (articles, chapters and books). Therefore, the future and deeper analysis on works and ideas should be focused on this concentration, whose leading role seems to indicate a higher level of importance.

36Third, there is a certain concentration of authors, which shows that while there was a kind of dissemination supplied by several routes, the nutritional sources were just a few. This set of intellectuals, many times read and used, were also the most relevant intellectuals in Latin America at the time. Then, the key, in our view, was the indisputable merit of their ideas and not just being part of a group of researchers connected to demands that, by then, seemed to enjoy great prestige.

37Fourth, you can observe the very revealing fact that almost 62.7% of references correspond to notes, explanations or clarifications based on the works of cepalist-dependency intellectuals. This one fact reveals that the ideas circulated and that they were used and not only scored in the bibliography. Judging by the re-elaborations made by some African intellectuals and/or politicians who achieved notoriety, such as Calude Ake, Samir Amin, Colin Leys, Justinian Rweyemamu and Walter Rodney, among others, it is possible to state that these thoughts were deeply and effectively incorporated.

38Fifth, and connected with the above, there was also a high degree of concentration of Africans and/or Africanists who used references of the cepalist-dependency authors in their work. This should lead to weigh the influence of these thinkers as a qualitative impact, rather than a quantitative one. In this line, the degree of influence of these Africans within their own academic and political spheres should be investigated thoroughly, in order to verify the potential for transfer of the ideas originating from cepalist-dependency and, for example, check to what extent these thoughts managed to go from the purely theoretical to practice, through the development and implementation of public policies. Therein lies a scope of work for the future.

39Sixth, is is noted that a more tenuous and horizontal advance network was laid between those other intellectuals, cepalist-dependency thinkers and African/Africanists, whose meaning is to be discovered. It would have been a transfer of ideas in that some sense and would not only have been focused on the agenda addressed in the 1960-1980 period, but that would have begun on the basis of it. As in other aspects, the link between Latin America and Africa is yet to be discovered.



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1 This work is the partial and initial result of a project funded by FONDECYT entitled "El Pensamiento Económico Latinoamericano en África Sudsahariana: presencia y reelaboración (1960-1980)", No. 1030018, during 2003-2006. In this, the author of this work is a co-investigator and Dr. Eduardo Devés is the researcher responsible. A version of this paper was published in the book in coauthorship with Eduardo Devés (2009), Las ciencias económico-sociales latinoamericanas en África Sudsahariana, Santiago: Ariadna Ediciones.

2 Bielschowsky, Ricardo “Evolución de las ideas de la CEPAL”, in Revista de CEPAL, extraordinary edition (CEPAL Cincuenta Años), Santiago-Chile, 1998, p. 21

3 Ibid., p.

4 The project that supports these first results will be completed by the year 2006.

5 Stallings, Barbara (1972), Economic Dependency in Africa and Latin America, Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.

6 Devés, Eduardo (2011), El pensamiento africano sudsahariano. Desde mediados del siglo XIX a la actualidad, Buenos Aires: Biblos; Devés, Eduardo (2009), Las ciencias económico-sociales latinoamericanas en África Sudsahariana, Santiago: Ariadna (written in collaboration with César Ross); Devés, Eduardo (2008), Pensamento africano sul-saariano: conexoes e paralelos con o pensamento latino-Americano. Um esquema, Río de Janeiro: CLACSO-EDUCAM.

Table des illustrations

Titre Table No. 1 Africa and Africanist authors*
Fichier image/jpeg, 282k
Titre Table No. 2 Presence of ECLAC authors
Légende Source: Compiled by author, based on the analysis of the sources underlined at the beginning of this article and indicated in the section of the bibliography of this same work.
Fichier image/jpeg, 131k
Titre Table No. 3 Who references whom?
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Doctor en Estudios Americanos (Universidad de Santiago de Chile, USACH). Ha sido académico de las universidades Arturo Prat, Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación y de la American University. Actualmente, está adscrito al Programa de Doctorado en Estudios Americanos de la Universidad Santiago de Chile. Entre sus libros se puede citar Chile y APEC 2004: al encuentro de una oportunidad, Universidad Arturo Prat, Instituto de Estudios Internacionales, 2004.


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