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The concept of the underdeveloped society has acquired such general currency in the past twenty years that an inquiry into its meaning has rarely seemed necessary. In a vague way the term applies to the countries outside Europe, North America, and Japan which have not passed through the process of industrialization. Brazil, Egypt, India, and Liberia have thus been called underdeveloped. Two significant assumptions are basic to the concept: first, that these countries in due course will be industrialized; and second, that their economic situation gives them significant common characteristics. A good part of the world’s social policy in the last quarter century has rested upon these beliefs.
They should long since have been challenged, for they conceal an unwillingness or inability to deal with the situation created since 1945 by the liquidation of imperialism. The success of movements for national independence after 1945 coincided with the onset of the cold war and touched off a competition for the loyalty of the uncommitted states. Aid became an instrument for winning that loyalty, and development was the justification for aid. Significantly, Marxist and capitalist theory were in agreement on the prospective evolution of the contested areas. Since economic forces were regarded as decisive, all countries were presumed to follow the same course of development. The fact that some were behind others was due to a time lag in industrialization and would be corrected by an inflow of capital. Hence aid to the underdeveloped.
The very uneven results of two decades of experience have already raised questions about these propositions, and nowhere are the problems more important than in Asia. Altogether apart from the present crisis in Vietnam, the fate of that continent will have a profound bearing upon the world’s future.
GUNNAR MYRDAL’S VSIAN DRAMA: AN INQUIRY INTO THE POVERTY OF NATIONS (Twentieth Century Fund, 3 volumes, $25.00; Pantheon, paper, $8.50) assembles a mass of material that challenges the whole concept of development. This study, which is the product of ten years of research sponsored by the Twentieth Century Fund, may prove as significant in its own way as An American Dilemma. Myrdal has examined the course of modernization in Pakistan, India, Ceylon, Burma, Malaya, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos — which he loosely regards as parts of a single region. The pages of this long work, tightly packed with facts bearing upon every phase of the productive systems he treats, contain a somber assessment of past achievements and deliver a sober warning about the future.
Agriculture remains overwhelmingly important in the economy of the region, and the level of output is low. As a result, the inflow of capital from abroad has not really improved the foreign-exchange situation. Industrialization alone is not likely to raise the level of economic activity; nor will it absorb the annual increase in the Labor force. The rapid expansion of population cannot be halted swiftly. For the next generation, “government action, no matter how vigorous, determined, and concerted, could do very little, if anything, to hold in check the powerful social forces propelling” population growth. The prospects are grim.
Myrdal’s analysis is informed by an understanding of the inadequacies of previous theories of underdevelopment which treated the productive system in isolation. Modernization, he argues, aims at raising the levels of production and the standard of living through rationality and planning. It therefore requires new institutions and attitudes shaped by governmental decisions. Hence “economic problems cannot be studied in isolation, but only in their demographic, social, and political setting.” Asia’s poverty is not the simple result of a lack of capital; it emanates from irrational attitudes and anachronistic situations which stand in the way of progress.
The study devotes a good deal of attention to politics and education. The independence movements bestowed power on relatively small elite groups which were committed to modernization and planning. These people, who were “only a minute upper stratum in the total population,” wished to “deal with their own countries’ problems in terms as similar as possible to those of the countries by whose culture” they were influenced. Assuming that their development would follow the patterns of the West, they only slowly discovered the requirements of their own situation. Often they were out of touch with the masses and therefore neither required much from the people nor did much to develop social discipline.
Education, like health, is a means of improving the quality of the population. Yet the educational system has remained much as it was at the end of the colonial period. Colleges and secondary schools serving the urban middle class have expanded more rapidly than primary or vocational schools which might have altered the attitudes and improved the skills of the masses.
More specific insights on specific problems are scattered through the volumes. Myrdal argues for the preservation of village crafts and small-scale urban enterprises even at the cost of a slowdown in industrialization. He is dubious about the value of land reform that will reduce the size of holdings and suggests that there may be merit in large-scale agriculture operated with wage labor. In both respects, his recommendations run counter to accepted opinion. He is also sensible on the problems of democratic planning and on corruption.
The shortcomings of Myrdal’s treatment arise from the limitations of a study which altered its focus in midcourse, shifting its sights from the economy to the whole social context. As a result, the definition of the frontiers of the new states receives excessive attention while other aspects of their politics are neglected. There is a general awareness of the importance of religious factors, but little effort to probe the connection to the productive system of Catholicism in the Philippines, Islam in Indonesia, or Buddhism in Ceylon. The opportunities for social mobility are crucial to the effective utilization of manpower, yet the subject receives no systematic analysis. Nevertheless, as in An American Dilemma, Myrdal’s contribution lies not merely in the conclusions he reaches but also in the neglected questions he reveals. Asian Drama is, like its predecessor, a major work. One can only wish that its message will be heeded.

Eighteenth-century revolution

In the West, modern society originated in the revolutions of the eighteenth century. The transformation of industry followed forms then developed in Britain; politics faced challenges touched off by the rebellion of the American colonies.
The second volume of JAMES T. FLEXNER’S GEORGE WASHINGTON (Atlantic-Little, Brown, $10.00) covers the years from 1775 to 1783 and thus takes the Virginian through the events of the American Revolution. Military affairs occupy much of the book, as they did Washington’s attention. Flexner has mastered the details of these operations and explains them clearly. His judgments are judicious and balanced, and his prose is free of the florid character that too often inflates the writing about the battles of the eighteenth century.
Yet the Revolution was more than a war and Washington was more than a general, so that Flexner, like his subject, must touch on political and ideological issues also. The emphasis is upon wartime deeds and emotions. But this was a conflict fought for a cause and one from which a nation grew. Washington was never really a military man, and he was fully aware of the importance of a unified public opinion in securing victory.
His path through the Revolution was studded with mistakes, indiscretions, personal hatreds, boredom, resentments, lies, exaggerated complaints, and a great deal of personal misery. It is the virtue of Flexner’s book that it tells the full story, without concealment, and in doing so reveals the true greatness of an agrarian gentleman who was able to achieve a balance of opposing stresses among his countrymen and not only win the war but also set the stage for a happy peace.
Flexner does not, however, fully answer the question he raises about Washington’s crucial post-war decision, one which set this revolution apart from any other. The decision to retire, to pursue a republican way, was not one forced upon the commander. Indeed, in 1783 he had the opportunity to aggrandize his power by leading the army in justified defiance of Congress. He refused in a dramatic scene, partly because to have done otherwise offended his sense of personal integrity. But the decision also arose from the very nature of the cause for which he fought. His view of the Revolution demanded a commitment to legality, and he would therefore condone no departure from lawful procedures even to increase his own power.
GUGLIELMO FERRERO in THE TWO FRENCH REVOLUTIONS (Basic Books, $5.95) establishes the contrast between events in Europe and America. Ferrero was a liberal Italian historian, a foe of fascism, who lived the last ten years of his life in exile. He had originally been a student of the ancient world, but his own experience drew his attention to the development of Europe after the French Revolution. In a notable trilogy he traced the modern history of the continent, seeking to understand the forces that turned the liberating impulses of revolution into the justifications for dictatorship.
The Two French Revolutions, translated from the French by Samuel J. Hurwitz, is a prologue to the larger work. It seeks in the events in France between 1789 and 1796 a clue to the forces that worked themselves out in European history during the century that followed. Ferrero argues that there were two, not one, French revolutions, which therein differed from the American Revolution. The second French revolution, in 1793, altogether destroyed legitimate authority, the silken threads that hold men together in human interrelationships and permit a normal society to function. As a result, those who seized power after 1793 had to resort to the iron bonds of dictatorship and ruled by force, fear, and fraud. Periodic reigns of terror punctuated the operations of government. The inability to escape that second revolution was momentous for Europe, just as freedom from it was decisive for the United States.
The divergencies in their history accounted in the past for the differences between the Old World and the New. THE BOURGEOIS: CATHOLICISM vs. CAPITALISM IN EIGHTEENTHCENTURY FRANCE (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, $5.95) by BERNARD GROETHUYSEN treats a subject with a significant bearing upon the old regime, the revolution destroyed. This subtle study, made available in English forty years after its original publication, examines the relationship between the intellectual and the social development of the middle class which would make the first French Revolution and would be disoriented by the second.
Groethuysen’s argument focuses on the relations of church and society. A skillful analysis of religious attitudes shows that the developing bourgeois hostility to the church early in the eighteenth century expressed the viewpoint of a class anxious to assert itself. But as the respectable citizens established their place in society, they grew more cautious in their criticism and even began to discover virtues in the clergy. The shift in viewpoint owed something to the dawning perception that the church might play a useful role in maintaining social order among the masses from whom the bourgeois differentiated themselves.
These bourgeois types are the central characters in SIR GAVIN DE BEER’S EDWARD GIBBON AND HIS WORLD (Viking, $6.95). This is a straightforward account of the great Enlightenment historian. There are few novelties in the text; the great value of the book lies in its remarkable illustrations, which bring to life the eighteenth-century world of England and the Continent.
Gibbon was born in 1737, five years after Washington, and died in 1794, while the outcome of the French Revolution was still unclear. At a young age he devoted himself to the methods of rational inquiry, and much of the repute of his great work derived from its boldness in treating the rise of Christianity as a secular event. Perhaps his decision to live much of his life in Lausanne also revealed his regard for regularity and order—eminently the virtues of the Swiss townspeople which also attracted Voltaire and Rousseau.
Yet Gibbon regarded the course of the French Revolution with horror. The events in Paris seemed to him an ominous prelude to a new uprising of the barbarians as threatening to modern civilization as that which he had traced in the destruction of Rome. He could not understand the aspirations of the masses who were not, strictly speaking, part of his world.
No such gulf divided Washington from the Americans of his time, and there was, therefore, only one revolution in the New World.

Writers in love

The author who makes one of the central characters of his novel a writer thereby acquires an additional voice. Not only can he comment on the action from his own external position, but he can also insinuate his judgments by way of the reflected observations of his fictional writer. The use made of this extra perspective, however, depends upon the attitude toward the novel as well as toward the people in it. Two recent stories — one French and the other Japanese—show the variety of services to which the device can be put.
JOSÉ CABANIS’ THE BATTLE OF TOULOUSE (Coward-McCann, $4.00) is the more imaginative work. A middle-aged novelist has abruptly terminated a long and unsatisfying love affair. Unwilling to force a confrontation with the girl for fear that his resolve would weaken, he has put her on a plane and has then ended the relationship with a letter.
Now he withdraws to the country, where he intends to compose a long historical novel about the Napoleonic wars, after the fashion, he hopes, of War and Peace. But as he tries to write, his mind wanders back to Gabrielle, who has left him and whom he has dismissed. Gradually he retraces the course of the liaison to its origins, all the while trying to organize the materials for his novel, which he never finishes. The long introspective effort draws his thoughts back to childhood, to recollections of his mother, and to a flash of self-discovery.
Cabanis thus uses his character’s attempt at writing as a means of understanding the human heart. The story is told through a succession of delicate probes into memory which subtly expose the emotional sources of the protagonist’s behavior, the controlled lyricism of the tightly written sentences creates a setting partway between dream and actuality, one in which it is credible that the process of seeking words for a novel should reveal disquieting memories.
An aging novelist scarred by love is also the central character of YUKIO MISHIMA’S FORBIDDEN COLORS (Knopf, $6.95). Shunsukc Hinoki, a successful author, had known only betrayal from the various women who passed through his life. He could hardly have been surprised, therefore, to find the girl he pursued to a resort on the Izu Peninsula sharing the room of a handsome male friend. Nor was Shunsuké very surprised when Yuichi, the perfect youth, privately confessed that he could love only men.
The encounter gives Shunsuké the opportunity to avenge himself on all the women who had injured him. He encourages Yuiehi to marry the girl and then guides the young man through a dreary succession of ambidextrous adventures. The idyllic homosexual experiences alternate with the dealings with tawdry, grasping females. Yuichi is so beautiful that no one of either sex can resist him, so cool that he can turn passion on and off at will, and so malleable that he lends himself to Shunsuké’s plots with hardly a scruple.
Mishima is the author of a dozen novels, popular at home, translated into foreign languages and adapted for the movies and for television. He knows what he is doing; the silly elements of the plot are there deliberately and serve a purpose. Shunsuké, who guides Yuichi as he does the characters in his books, expresses his own and Mishima’s view of fiction. A novelist “is a genius at stirring up someone else’s passion.”The writer docs not feel; he peeks in on the feelings of others. “The unhappiness of other people when viewed through a window is more beautiful than when viewed from within.”
This is Mishima’s method as it is that in a good deal of contemporary fiction. the characters are contrived, the emotions regarded externally, the more easily to manipulate them. The novel is dense with realistic detail. But the precision of the furniture in a doll’s house does not bring the puppets to life. And by making the writer Shunsuké pivotal to the action. Mishima gives his own game away.

HUAC

WALTER GOODMAN’S THE COMMITTEE (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $10.00) is the best single account of the troubled labors of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. It rests on careful research, is clearly written, and is balanced in its judgments the last no mean achievement when dealing with this nettlesome subject.
HUAC sprang thirty years ago from widespread fears lest conspiracies from the left and the right subvert the American system of government. At the start it drew the support of well-intentioned legislators anxious about the extent to which Nazis and Communists were the tools of foreign states. But Martin Dies and some of his successors at the head of the Committee also sought to turn its investigative machinery against the New Deal and other liberal movements. The Committee, then lent, itself to a succession of unsavory expeditions against those who did not concur in its own view of true Americanism. Goodman provides an excellent analysis of these unfortunate and sometimes dangerous forays.
But he goes beyond a mere rehearsal of the misdeeds of the Committee. He understands that the “Committee’s Americanism runs deep,”for “this is not the land exclusively of Lincoln and Jefferson.”Strong currents of unease have kept the Committee alive, entirely apart from the occasional freebooters who attempted to further their own. careers by it or from conservatives who wished it to light any kind of change. Goodman understands too the weakness of the dogmatic liberals who refused to concede that any problem of subversion existed. A first-rate account of the Hiss case, for instance, shows the connection between liberal intransigence and the subsequent rise of McCarthyism. At the moment, despite foreign and domestic crises, repressive instincts seem subdued. This book is a useful reminder of what is needed to keep them under control.