First Advisor

Seymour Adler

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Urbanization -- Guyana -- History



Physical Description

4, x, 515 leaves: maps 28 cm.


This research proposes to examine the process of urbanization in Guyana, South America. In particular, the objectives of this research are threefold. The first is to identify, describe, and evaluate some of the historic and current causes of urban growth and urbanization which have taken place in a peripheral capitalist state that was under the plantation mode and that illustrates a legacy of "uneven development." The second objective is to attempt to assess planning responses, through attempts by the state to formulate policies to deal more effectively with urbanization. And the third objective is to contribute to a dialogue between planning practitioners and dependency/world-system theorists. Although any urbanization process has a variety of endogenous and exogenous variables, the major premise of this study is that the world system affects the political economy of the state and hence its pattern of urban development. That is, urbanization in Guyana can be largely attributed to its colonial legacy after a prolonged period of Dutch, French, and British tutelage, and to the general influence of metropolitan economic dictates. In surveying the components shaping urbanization, the study discerns outcomes which essentially confirm the expectations of dependency/world-system theory. Following its incorporation into the modern world system, Guyana has reproduced many of the patterns of development that are expected of a dependent peripheral economy. Core power hegemony led to the stimulation and growth of the port town of Georgetown and the secondary port of New Amsterdam. Georgetown, the capital, in particular was used not only to evacuate economic surplus, but also to provide a market for core-manufactured goods. Whilst dependency/world-system theory allows one to demonstrate how surplus value was extracted from Guyana via the circulation of primary commodities, it failed to adequately address the manner in which labor was utilized and reproduced. Urbanization in Guyana is contingent not only upon the class struggle, but also ethnic/racial conflict. Throughout the study, the historical evidence has supported the notion that race has been a dominant factor in the internal political economy. Racial considerations have been most important in determining legislation, the allocation of economic surplus, planning, and development policies which have impacted urbanization. Guyana today appears to conform to the postulates of dependent urbanization. Among the observed characteristics of the urban structure are urban primacy, unemployment and underemployment, a burgeoning informal sector, intra-urban inequality, shanty towns and squatter settlements, and retardation in rural areas. These dependent urbanization features have also been accompanied by a number of conditions that appear to be common to all countries which have experienced dependent development. Within the economic structure, there is an overwhelming primary export orientation with product elaboration in the core, low rates of GNP and per capita incomes, a stunted manufacturing sector, a lack of diversification, low-productivity and low-wage labor, excessive dependence, a deepening divergence between what is consumed and what is produced, and the absence of an internal dynamic and coherence within the political and social structure, the study has noted perceived racial and ethnic divisions, a high degree of social segmentation, residential separation along racial lines, profound inequalities, instability, bureaucratism, and authoritarian tendencies. Finally, this study of the Guyana experience demonstrates that dependency/world-system theory can be a powerful heuristic tool in organizing, understanding, and explaining the nature of the urbanization process in a peripheral capitalist state. The research further suggests that when the theory is supplemented with a realist perspective that places a premium on internal dynamics, the dialectical relationship between external and internal forces will ensure a more complete analysis of urbanization in peripheral social formations.


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