In The Stages of Economic Growth, for which he is known around the world, W. W. Rostow distinguished five basic stages of growth experienced by societies as they change from a pre-industrial state to full economic maturity. In this book the analysis is continued but the focus is shifted, from economic growth to politics. Professor Rostow see politics as an eternal triangle of competing imperatives - of security, welfare, and constitutional order. Using this concept, he examines the political meaning and content of each of the stages as experienced by eight countries; Great Britain, France, China, Japan, Russia, Turkey, Mexico and the United States. He goes on to consider, in the heart of the book, a uniquely political stage: the search for quality which is possible in an age of high mass consumption. Special attention is given the United States. Professor Rostow also examines the character of politics in the developing nations of today, and makes explicit what he sees to be the lessons of history and the contemporary world for these nations. He concludes by using his analysis to speculate on possibilities for peace in the global community.
Rostow's theory of the stages of economic growth has been criticized over the past decade for its ahistorical, apolitical view of development and its basic automatism. Here Rostow takes each stage before and after industrial "takeoff" and discusses concomitant political developments in a number of 19th and 20th-century cases. He still writes as if the world in which Britain industrialized is fundamentally equivalent to all latter days. . . as if contemporary "developing" countries have truly national economies. . . as if their backwardness, deformation and collapse represents "delayed" development. He relies on anthropomorphic abstractions like "impulses" toward industrialization and "fractured" traditional society, and since he rarely deals with social groups beyond the elite and the masses, key political battles among broad classes or ruling sections are bypassed in favor of mere descriptions of governmental policies. Rostow is utterly indifferent to the economic problem of capital accumulation, much less its political manifestations; and since he declines to explore the interconnections of the world economy, key developmental issues like the debt burdens of India and Latin America are relegated to parentheses. Since the book is gravely flawed even without reference to its cold-war biases or Rostow's public role as privy hawk - though some critics will dwell on them - it only remains to note that Rostow refuses to directly confront his critics and thereby further devaluates whatever residual worth the book offers scholars and students. (Kirkus Reviews)