Who identified 5 stages or categories within which, economically, all societies could be placed? | Sociology for CUET by Vikash Ranjan | Sociology Guru


Question: Who identified 5 stages or categories within which, economically, all societies could be placed?

  1. Karl Marx
  2. W. Rostow
  3. Andre Gunder Frank
  4. Sir Henry Maine

Answer: (2)

W.W. Rostow’s Stages of Economic Growth: An Evolutionary Perspective on Development

Walt Whitman Rostow, an American economist and government official, significantly influenced the field of Development Studies with his seminal work “The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto” published in 1960. Rostow’s model, known as the Stages of Economic Growth, delineates five distinct phases that he believed all societies traverse on their path to development. This essay aims to delve into Rostow’s stages, exploring their characteristics, historical context, criticisms, and enduring relevance in the discourse of development.

  1. Traditional Society: The Agrarian Epoch

The first stage in Rostow’s framework is “Traditional Society.” In this phase, societies exhibit characteristics of subsistence agriculture, limited technological advancement, and a lack of scientific orientation. Labor-intensive farming dominates, and the economy operates on a small scale. The population lacks a systematic understanding of science and technology.

  1. Preconditions to Take-off: Building Foundations for Growth

The second stage, “Preconditions to Take-off,” marks a transitional phase where societies start laying the groundwork for economic growth. There is a shift towards a more diversified economy, the emergence of manufacturing, and a growing awareness of the importance of education and technology. The nation begins to develop a national and international outlook, moving beyond local and regional perspectives.

  1. Take-off: Initiating Industrialization

The third stage, “Take-off,” is a critical juncture characterized by the initiation of industrialization. Rostow envisions this as a short but intense period where a country experiences rapid economic growth. During the take-off stage, there is a concentration of resources and labor in new industries, sparking the industrial revolution. This phase is critical for transitioning from agrarian economies to industrial powerhouses.

  1. Drive to Maturity: Sustaining Growth Over Time

The fourth stage, “Drive to Maturity,” encompasses a prolonged period where sustained economic growth becomes the norm. Standard of living rises, technological advancements become more sophisticated, and the economy diversifies. Countries in this stage witness the consolidation of industrialization gains and the development of a mature and diversified economy.

  1. Age of High Mass Consumption: Peak of Development

The fifth and final stage, the “Age of High Mass Consumption,” represents the pinnacle of development according to Rostow. In this stage, a country’s economy is characterized by mass production, high levels of consumerism, and a capitalist system. This stage, according to Rostow, was exemplified by Western countries like the United States during the time of his writing.

Historical Context and Criticisms:

Rostow’s stages were conceived in the historical context of the post-World War II era, during which economic development emerged as a crucial global concern. The model was developed in response to prevailing development paradigms that assumed a linear progression from traditional societies to modern, Westernized states.

However, Rostow’s framework has faced substantial criticisms:

Homogenization of Development: Critics argue that Rostow’s model homogenizes the diverse paths that countries can take toward development. The assumption that all societies follow the same linear trajectory has been deemed overly simplistic and Eurocentric.

Neglect of Social and Political Factors: Rostow’s model places a heavy emphasis on economic factors while neglecting the crucial roles played by social, political, and cultural dynamics in the development process. It oversimplifies the complexities inherent in societal progress.

Cultural Insensitivity: The model assumes a universal understanding of progress, disregarding the diverse cultural contexts in which development occurs. This cultural insensitivity has been seen as a limitation in capturing the uniqueness of different societies.

Enduring Relevance and Contemporary Perspectives:

While Rostow’s stages have been subject to critiques, they have also contributed to shaping subsequent discussions on development. The model’s enduring relevance lies in its role as a historical artifact that reflects the thinking of its time. Additionally, it has influenced subsequent development theories and policy strategies.

Contemporary perspectives often draw on Rostow’s insights while recognizing the need for a more nuanced and context-specific understanding of development. Scholars and policymakers consider the multidimensional nature of development, incorporating social, political, and cultural factors into their analyses. Rostow’s stages, therefore, serve as a foundational framework that sparks ongoing debates and discussions on the complex processes of societal advancement.


W.W. Rostow’s Stages of Economic Growth remains a landmark contribution to Development Studies. Its impact, though tempered by criticisms, is undeniable. As aspirants prepare for the MA CUET exam, understanding Rostow’s stages equips them with insights into the historical evolution of development theories and the ongoing dialogue surrounding the diverse paths to societal progress.


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Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Question: Define the term “ethnic movement” and provide an example from India.

Answer: An ethnic movement refers to a collective effort by a group sharing common cultural, linguistic, or religious traits, seeking to assert their identity and rights; an example from India is the Khalistan Movement in Punjab.

2. Question: Identify the main objectives behind the Gorkhaland ethnic movement.

Answer: The Gorkhaland ethnic movement primarily seeks to establish a separate state for India’s Nepali-speaking population in the Darjeeling region, advocating for linguistic and cultural recognition and political autonomy.

3. Question: What was the Operation Blue Star, and which ethnic movement was it related to?
Answer: Operation Blue Star was a military action in 1984, aiming to remove Sikh militants hiding in the Golden Temple in Amritsar; it is related to the Khalistan movement, which sought a separate Sikh country.

4. Question: Mention a critical factor that triggered the emergence of ethnic movements in India, as discussed by Dipankar Gupta.
Answer: Dipankar Gupta emphasized that ethnicity is fundamentally a political process, wherein caste and religion, the key components of identity formation, are politicized by leaders for vested interests.

5. Question: What were the primary reasons for the Assam Ethnicity conflicts involving Bodo tribals and Bengali Muslim settlers?
Answer: The Assam Ethnicity conflicts primarily stemmed from issues related to immigration, land rights, and resource allocation, leading to clashes, riots, and evolving relationships among indigenous communities to address challenges.

6. Question: Briefly describe the role of the Dravidian Movement in terms of caste and societal structure.
Answer: The Dravidian Movement, led notably by E.V. Ramasamy, aimed to establish an egalitarian society, focusing on anti-Brahmanism and advocating for equal rights for backward castes, while also introducing reforms like self-respect marriages.

7. Question: Name the prominent ethnic movements in North-East India and specify one common objective.
Answer: Prominent ethnic movements in North-East India include the Nagas’ and Mizos’ struggles; a common objective was to gain autonomy and recognition for their distinct tribal identities and cultural uniqueness.

8. Question: What is the key argument of Gail Omveldt regarding traditional Indian society and multiculturalism?
Answer: Gail Omveldt opposed romanticizing traditional Indian society, arguing that hierarchy has always dominated it and dismissing the notion that multiculturalism is an intrinsic feature of Indian society as a myth.

9. Question: Briefly explain the social hierarchy factor as a contributing element to ethnic movements as suggested by Olzak.
Answer: Olzak suggests that the construction of hierarchies among ethnic communities, which often leads to the suppression of one group by another, is a key factor that can instigate social and ethnic movements.

10. Question: Identify one consequence of the unequal economic development factor within the context of ethnic movements in India.
Answer: One consequence of unequal economic development is the marginalization and underdevelopment of certain groups, leading to feelings of alienation and sometimes initiating ethnic movements as these groups strive for equality and recognition.

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