Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.
Mubai slums with skyscrapers in background.
Where past and present meet.

Rostow's theory of growth

Is economic growth a framework for change or a single narrative?

Development as it is known today – an ideology or an aspiration – emerged as a priority following the Second World War II when colonised countries were demanding and achieving independence. Postwar political and economic fragility surfaced as global political allegiances were changing and the Cold War beginning.

Economic growth

In 1960, Walt Whitman Rostow published an influential theory of economic growth that was taken up widely in the development sector. This theory led to a single narrative about economic development, in which:

  • the major barriers to a nation’s development were perceived to be internal to that nation (bad government, poverty, primitive economies, non-competitive subsistence living, drought, lack of infrastructure)
  • the objective was for countries to modernise their economies.

However, over time, development theories demonstrated that some of the major obstacles to development were actually external to countries, mainly unfair trading systems that benefited the richer countries.

Rostow's Theory of Growth Inforgraphic

© Deakin University, 2017.


Your task

Rostow’s theory prescribes a universal path towards development.

Is economic growth the best path to development? Or is it the only one we know?

Post your responses in the comments. Remember you can like comments you find interesting or follow other learners.


> Unit ADS714 program page

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Gender and Development

Deakin University

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

  • Chalkboard with 'Change the Story' written on it.
    Single stories
    article

    Simplifying gender or development to a single narrative distorts our perceptions. Read Dr Maree Pardy and watch a video of Nigerian writer Adachie.

  • Female celebrity in gold sparkly dress signing autographs.
    So hot right now
    article

    Watch videos of Madonna and Angelina Jolie speak up about Gender and Development. Read as educator Dr Maree Pardy examines celebratainment.

Contact FutureLearn for Support