Social dualism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

In sociology and economics, Social dualism is a theory developed by economist Julius Herman Boeke which characterizes a society in the economic sense by the social spirit, the organisational forms and the technique dominating it.[1] According to Boeke, "These three aspects are interdependent and in this connection typify a society, in this way that a prevailing social spirit and the prevailing forms of organisation and of technique give the society its style, its appearance, so that in their interrelation they may be called the social system, the social style or the social atmosphere of that society[2] ".

The Dual Society[edit]

According to Boeke, it is not necessary that a society be dominated exclusively by one social system. If one social system does prevail, the society in question is a homogeneous society. When, on the contrary two (or more) social systems appear simultaneously, we have a dual society. Boeke qualifies the term dual society by using it only for societies "showing a distinct cleavage of two synchronic and full grown social styles which in the normal, historical evolution of homogeneous societies are separated from each other by transitional forms, as for instance, pre-capitalism and high capitalism by early capitalism."[1][2]

This qualification is necessary because every society going through the process of evolution or endogenic social progression shows besides the prevailing social systems, the remains of the preceding and the beginnings of its future social style. If, on the other hand, one social system is imported from abroad and this system fails to oust or assimilate the prevailing social system, a dual society obviously exists. On this account Boeke defines a dual society as a society where "one of the two prevailing social systems, as a matter of fact always the most advanced, will have been imported from abroad and have gained its existence in the new environment without being able to oust or assimilate the divergent social system that has grown up there, with the result that neither of them becomes general and characteristic for that society as a whole."

Characteristics of a Dualistic Economy[edit]

Overriding importance of social needs

The first characteristic of dualistic economies pointed out by Boeke is the relatively greater importance of social needs as compared to western economies.[3] Boeke states, "Possessions in the share of cattle, land, clothes, and houses, the fulfilment of social duties in all the circumstances of likr, must be all regarded as largely the satisfaction of social needs. It is not their economic usefulness, not the individual services they render their possessor which determine the value of the goods. It is a matter of secondary importance whether the land produces reasonable profit in proportion to the money paid for it whether the cattle can be made reasonably useful to their owner in his own business,whether the clothing covers, protects,warms the wearer or affects him pleasantly in any way. For it is not the use of these objects to the subject himself that gives them their worth in his eyes; it is what the community thinks of them that sets the standard.


The social dualism theory has been criticised by Benjamin Higgins on the following grounds:

  1. The Wants Are Not Limited: If we analyse “Indonesia’s life” we do not find that the desires of the people are limited because here the values of MPC and MPM are higher. This is the reason that the government has to impose import restrictions. Moreover, whenever the harvest is good, farmers become prosperous and the demand for luxurious goods rises.
  2. Casual Labor Are Not Unorganized: Boeke presented the version that casual workers are unorganised and passive. But this may be true as far as agricultural sector is concerned but they are not unorganised in coffee, tea, rubber and plantation etc.
  3. Eastern Labor Is Not Immobile: Boeke thought that eastern labor is immobile. It is not so because of attraction of modern facilities of life in the urban areas. Moreover the high income incentives force the labor to move from rural areas to urban areas.
  4. Dualistic Theory Is Not Particular To Under Developed Countries Only: The eastern society, according to Boeke, only exists in under-developed countries. It is not true. It does exist in Canada, Italy and even in the United States.
  5. Applicability To Western Society: According to Professor Higgins most of the characteristics of eastern society given by Boeke are present even in the western societies. For example, during hyper inflation, speculation is preferred to investment. This means, the people in the western countries also have a strong desire to keep their capital safe and in liquid form. The western society also believes in conspicuous consumption as discussed by veblin and snob effects. The backward bending supply curve of efforts has been experienced by Australia during post war period and by US in the fifties.
  6. Not A Theory But A Description: It is objected that the Boeke’s dualistic theory is merely a description rather than a theory. His findings are based upon neo—classical theory which has the limited applicability in the western world.
  7. Does Not Provide Solution To The Problem Of Unemployment: Boeke’s dualism centers more on socio—cultural aspects rather on economic. He only says that government is not in a position to remove unemployment. Moreover, he does not mention the situation of under employment. Therefore his theory is full of shortcomings.

Prof. Higgins argues that the main issue in dualistic economies is to provide employment opportunities and Boeke's theory fails to do it and has developed the theory of Technological dualism as a response.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Dual economy theory". 
  2. ^ a b Economics of Development and Planning. Mumbai: Himalaya Publishing House. 2010. p. 253. ISBN 978-81-8488-829-4. 
  3. ^ Todaro; Smith. Economic Development. 


  • Boeke, Julius Herman (1953). Economics and Economic Policy of dual Societies. New York: Institute of Pacific Relations. 
  • Higgins, Benjamin (January 1956). "The 'Dualistic Theory' of Underdeveloped Areas". Economic Development and Cultural Change (The University of Chicago Press) 4 (2): 99–115. doi:10.1086/449706. 

External links[edit]