André Gunder Frank: Biography, Theory of Dependence, Contributions to the Economy and Main Works

André Gunder Frank (1929-2005) was an economist and sociologist born in Germany. Its most internationally recognized contribution is the theory of dependency, which deals with the reason why less developed countries fail to improve their economy adequately.

Frank belongs to the neo-Marxist current of economic science and he considered himself a radical economist. His writings and thoughts were very popular in Latin America since the 1960s, when the author lived in several countries in the region.

Biography of André Gunder Frank University of Chicago, where Frank studied economics

Part of their studies were carried out at the University of Chicago, where the neoliberal economist trend was developing at that time. He wrote numerous books in which he analyzed the economic sociology of the world. His works received praise and criticism alike, the latter even by groups ideologically close to the author.

His other facet was that of a professor: he taught at several Latin American universities, such as Brasilia or the Autonomous University of Mexico. He died after fighting cancer for 12 years, but never stopped working.


  • 1 Biography of André Gunder Frank
    • 1.1 Early age
    • 1.2 Stay in Chile
    • 1.3 Travel and death
  • 2 Theory of dependence
    • 2.1 Vision of Gunder Frank
  • 3 Contributions to the economy
    • 3.1 Theory of the world system
    • 3.2 Other contributions
  • 4 Main works
  • 5 References

Biography of André Gunder Frank

Early age

André Gunder was born in Berlin, Germany, on February 24, 1929. The arrival of the Nazis to power forced his family to leave the country, establishing his residence in Switzerland. Already during the Second World War they moved to the United States, where he studied in high school.

When choosing university subjects, the young man opted for economics and entered the University of Chicago. The doctorate was achieved in 1957, presenting a thesis on agriculture in the Soviet Union.

At that time, the University of Chicago was one of the most important centers in the field of economic sciences. In this the emergence of a group of economists that were going to be very important in the expansion of neoliberalism around the world was brewing.

Frank, of neo-Marxist ideas totally opposed to this group, recognized that the debates that took place there reaffirmed their beliefs.

After finishing his studies, he made contact with the Latin American reality. He traveled and lived in several countries, such as Brazil, Mexico and Chile. The author was caught by the socio-economic and political reality and became involved in the leftist movements.

Stay in Chile

Of all those countries, perhaps it was Chile that most marked Gunder Frank. He settled there in 1967 and began to frequent the circles of academics in the country. His wife was of that nationality and that contributed to his incorporation into Chilean intellectual life.

Frank brought to the leftist movements the neo-Marxist principles that some Americans were propagating. In addition, he warned about the neoliberal thinking developed in Chicago by thinkers like Friedman.

Travel and death

Frank and his wife had to leave Chile because of the coup led by Pinochet. One of the aspects that worsened him was the bad treatment received from the US government. Frank had decided to leave the nationality of that country and return to the German and that was very bad in his former homeland.

The author traveled all over the world, from Canada to the Netherlands, but he never stopped being considered part Latin American. The presence in almost all the continent of military dictatorships was a great dislike for him.

Another blow took him to the death of his wife, affliction that would not leave until his own death. After his widowhood he was residing in Canada and, under the Clinton administration, he was allowed to work in the United States.

His last days were spent in Luxembourg, where he died on April 23, 2005 victim of a cancer he was fighting for 12 years.

Theory of dependence

The antecedent of Frank's work on the dependency theory dates back to the 40s. In that decade, the Argentine Raúl Prebisch began to launch the idea about the difference in development between the center and the periphery. It was in Santiago de Chile where the debate opened by this theory gained more strength.

The basic idea of ​​the dependency theory is that the world economy always ends up hurting the least developed countries. To make it more understandable, its authors used the metaphor of the center and the periphery.

Thus, the periphery (undeveloped) has an assigned role as a supplier of raw material; while profits and industrialization remain at the center.

From the 1960s, authors such as Marini or Frank himself developed this theory much more deeply.

Vision of Gunder Frank

The point of view of Gunder Frank on the theory of dependence can be seen clearly when reading his own words:

"Underdevelopment is not a consequence of the survival of archaic institutions, of the lack of capital in regions that have stayed away from the torrent of world history; on the contrary, underdevelopment has been and is still generated by the same historical process that also generates the economic development of capitalism itself".

According to his writings, world trade has mechanisms that impede the improvement of peripheral countries, keeping them in a poverty that is convenient for them. Some of these mechanisms are:

- The global market only allows the periphery to act as exporters of raw materials or as consumers of already processed products. It leaves no option for them to be produced in their own countries.

- The central nations have monopolized all the technological development, increasing the prices of the products.

- If any of the peripheral economy countries improve, the market manages to make imports rise due to the difference in prices and exports to stagnate.

Contributions to the economy

The ideas of Gunder Frank and his supporters were not left alone in theory. Some Latin American countries began to implement some maneuvers to avoid stagnation in underdevelopment.

Among these movements, he highlighted trade protectionism, with the imposition of tariffs and controls on foreign products. In the same way, an attempt was made to create a structure that would allow manufacturing the products that were previously imported.

Another of the policies developed was the monetary policy. The coins were overvalued, to be able to buy cheaper.

Although this worked for a while, especially in the 70s, in the end the pressure of the central countries using the external debt that peripherals had always had, forced to modify the strategy.

Theory of the world system

One of Frank's last contributions was his theory of the world system. It is almost a historical-economic work in which, from a Marxist point of view, makes a review of social and political relations during history.

The author talks about the existence of what he calls the world-system. According to Frank, at first this world system had China as its center, but the discovery of America and its riches displaced it towards Europe. At present, he envisaged a return of that world center to Asia.

Other contributions

Another idea that the author developed in his works was his vision that America was installed in capitalism since the sixteenth century.

He also affirmed that there is a lumpen bourgeoisie in the whole continent, with a very vulnerable and vulnerable development. Finally, he conducted a comprehensive study on the effects of external debt in developing countries.

Main works

- Capitalism and underdevelopment in Latin America , 1967

- Latin America: underdevelopment or revolution 1969

- Sociology of development and underdevelopment of sociology: the development of underdevelopment 1969

- Lumpenburguesía: lumpendevelopment. Dependence, class and politics in Latin America , 1972

- On capitalist underdevelopment , 1975

- Capitalism and economic genocide , 1976

- The world accumulation 1492 - 1789 , 1978

- Dependent accumulation and underdevelopment , 1978

- Transforming the revolution: social movements in the world system (with Samir Amin, Giovanni Arrighi & Immanuel Wallerstein), 1990

- The underdevelopment of development: an autobiographical essay , 1991


  1. Dos Santos, Theodonio. André Günder Frank died. Retrieved from
  2. Economy and Management Theories of underdevelopment. Retrieved from
  3. García Menéndez, José Ramón. In memóriam: André Gunder Frank, economist, sociologist... teacher. Retrieved from
  4. Seddon, David. Andre Gunder Frank. Retrieved from
  5. ReviseSociology. Dependency Theory. Retrieved from
  6. Uwazie, I. U, Igwemma, A. A., Ukah, F. I. Contributions of Andre Gunder Frank to the Theory of Development and Underdevelopment: Implications on Nigeria's Development Situation. Retrieved from
  7. Kay, Cristobal. Andre Gunder Frank: 'Unity in Diversity' from the Development of Underdevelopment to the World System. Retrieved from
  8. Lawrence H.SimonDavid F.Ruccio. A methodological analysis of dependency theory: Explanation in Andre Gunder Frank. Recovered from