Date of Award

Spring 1985

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Many theories and models linking communication and development have appeared since World War II. There is no single theory, however, that has succeeded to explain the role of communication in development. Daniel Lerner proposed a modernization theory in his study of the Middle East published in 1958. Communication was one of the four key variables leading to development and modernization in his theory. Lerner greatly influenced scholars of development and of communication in development. Until the late 1960's, a single approach known as the dominant paradigm or Western model of development ruled the intellectual field in the West. That approach was best articulated in Lerner's modernization theory. In the 1970's the dominant paradigm was challenged by scholars. Most of the challenges came from scholars in socialist countries, the European Critical School and the Third World. This study has traced the changes in the theories of modernization and communication. Lerner's modernization theory was used as the basis for the analysis. There are two major chapters in this study. Chapter one examines the general literature on the relationship between development and communication. It discusses the contribution of various academic disciplines to the formulation of Lerner's modernization theory. It also introduces the shift from Lerner to the alternative approaches that reject the Western theory as articulated by Lerner. It presents the Chinese-Maoist model of development as a further rejection of Lerner. Chapter two builds on the foundation established in chapter one and analyzes four communication journals which were selected by the members of the international division of AEJMC. The analysis in chapter two uses four categories: Lerner, departure from Lerner, Chinese-Maoist , and unclassified categories. The analysis of Journalism Quarterly, Journal of Communication, Gazette, and Public Opinion Quarterly indicates that: Lerner's theory and model dominated the 1960's and still attracts scholars in Journalism Quarterly but less often in the other journals; opponents of Lerner's theory have published their criticisms and alternative theories in the Journal of Communication and Gazette; the Chinese- Maoist model has received little scholarly attention. Chapter three puts together the key findings of chapters one and two in view of answering the five questions that guided the study. The conclusion states that although there are many theoretical approaches relating communication to development, none has been satisfactory. The study recommends that in the search for the theoretical link between communication and development, some reconciliation is necessary among the various approaches. Each approach has some contribution to offer towards a better theoretical understanding of the role of communication in development.