Communication for Development in the Third World- Theory and Practice

Srinivas R. Melkote

Professor Srinivas Melkote's work offers a refreshingly different perspective from the standard Western recitation of material on the topic of communication and development. The work was first published in India to provide "students with a book that synthesizes all pertinent material in development communication between two covers" (p. 30). Melkote organizes his work around a historical review of development communication and a discussion of the theory and practice of Development Support Communication, drawing from the fields of rural sociology, social psychology, social work, communication, and political economy.

The book is well designed and features boxed inserts on such topics as a definition of the Third World and discussion of the world's major non-Western religions. It provides the reader with just enough background material to support the author's major contentions. There is an extensive 14-page reference list and an adequate index.

The book begins with a complimentary foreword by Everett Rogers and two very concise but illuminating overviews of Third World Development/Underdevelopment and Development Communication Theories since World War II. The first text section provides a welcomed historical centring for the reader--Europe was not always the font of civilization, an image it cultivated for itself for centuries. The author reminds us of the extraordinarily successful river valley civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus Valley, and China. Around 1500 the merchant class in Europe was able to subjugate and reduce "to serfdom vast numbers of human beings across the southern two-thirds of the globe" (p. 35): an area that has become known as the Third World. This process illustrates that the ability of some nations to acquire and apply knowledge faster than others allowed them to assume a more dominant stance by which they gained not only wealth but influence over the development of other nations.

Colonization's demise by the 1960s and the upsurge in Organized Development Assistance led to the imposition of the Dominant Paradigm. This forced development patterns, which were little more than the rehashed historical policies of the colonial powers, on newly independent states. The author does an excellent job revealing the simplistic, linear, deterministic mind-set of scholars such as Schramm, Lerner, Pool, Pye, and Rostow and how their theories were authority-based, top-down, expert-driven, non-negotiable, and well intentioned. Melkote includes in this section appropriate background discussion of the effects approach to communication theory and its attendant models, diffusion of innovation studies, and mass media's effects on modernization.

Two decades of development under the Dominant Paradigm resulted in less for many. The second section of the book chronicles the deflowering of that paradigm. Critical Latin American scholars (Frank, Diaz-Bordenave, Cardoso, and Beltran) and the Dependency School began to focus on the exploitation of the periphery (developing countries) by the centre (industrialized countries). Others (Singer and Srinivas) were resurrecting Eastern religions and cultures from the Weberian view that their non-Western perspective debilitated development.

The book concludes by discussing alternative development paradigms grounded in the contextual needs of individual countries and regions. Development should shift from economic growth and industrialization to fulfilling health care, nutrition, sanitation, and shelter needs, and it should be gauged by such non-material development indices as self-determination, self-reliance, cultural autonomy, ecological balance, and human rights. Under this new paradigm, called Another Development, communication becomes a co-equal knowledge-sharing process between users and sources--a means to raise consciousness and community participation. Goals and standards are set by host communities, not outside agencies. The challenge for the 1990s, according to the author, is to create an operational framework for the principles set forth in this work. He offers specifics on how to increase participation in projects and outlines the management information function of Development Support Communication.

The author does succeed in placing between two covers the kernels of both the theory and practice of communication for development in the Third World. The task was accomplished with measured grace and economy. The text would serve as an excellent introduction to the field or as a cultural awareness primer in a more general international communication course.



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We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.

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