Rostow’s Stages of Growth Model (For College Students)

05 Dec Rostow’s Stages of Growth Model (For College Students)


Main points of Rostow’s stages of growth model:

-Rostow’s stages of growth model is of the Neo-Classical tradition.

-The model takes a linear view of development, this means that countries are believed to develop in the same way over time.

-It is a structuralist model, it analyses development as the result of complex interactions between a number of different societal parts.

Rostow believed that economies develop by going through a number of stages. He attempted to define the characteristics of each of the 5 stages of development.

Traditional Society Stage

-Economic activity is on a subsistence basis, output (food etc) is consumed by those who produced it rather than traded. Economic activity is dominated by agriculture and is labour intensive.

Transitional Stage

-This stage is when a society has the preconditions for takeoff (the characteristics a society must have before it can start to grow quickly such as with the UK industrial revolution) in place but has not yet entered a period of high growth. Trading increases supported by an emerging transport infrastructure, savings and investment grow and entrepreneurs emerge.

Take Off Stage

-Industrialisation takes place, workers transfer from the agriculture to manufacturing. Growth is concentrated in to certain parts of the country and in one or two industries (for example, cotton processing in Manchester during the industrial revolution). New political and social institutions emerge to support industrialization.

Drive to Maturity Stage

-The economy diversifies from the industries that originally drove growth. The massive poverty caused by the Take Off Stage starts to be reduced.

High Mass Consumption Stage

-The stage that countries reach once they have developed. Rostow, writing in 1960, believed that this was the stage which Western countries were in. Living conditions are good and the economy is based on the consumer society.

Limitations of Rostow’s Stages of Growth Model:

-The Rostow starts with the assumption that countries will develop along the same path, that countries cannot skip stages, do stages in a different order. Splitting the process of development into stages may be simplifying what actually occurs.

-The model is ethnocentric, it is based on American and European history and shows American high mass consumption to be the end result of development.

-The model assumes that capitalist development is the only way to achieve economic development his model represents a “non-communist manifesto”.

How to use Rostow’s Stages of Growth Model in Essays and exams:

The ideal use of Rostow’s Stages of Growth Model in A level exams is to set it up as a straw man to knock down. The model is a good way of setting out a basic model which is easily criticised using more up to date models or models from a different political viewpoint. Don’t worry about spending too much time writing about Rostow’s model, just give the examiner an outline of your knowledge referring to the main points of the model (see start of article). This will then allow you to spend more time showing off your knowledge to the examiner about other more complex development models.


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