Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

James Siekmeier

Committee Co-Chair

Kenneth Fones-Wolf

Committee Member

Mark Tauger


The principle objective of this paper is to compare how modernization theory was implemented during the Alliance for Progress and the War on Poverty and to explore how this impacted power structures at the national level in the Alliance and the local level in the War on Poverty There have been some earlier works which have addressed modernization theory during the Alliance for Progress, including Michael Latham's, Modernization as Ideology, however most information about modernization theory itself comes from W.W. Rostow's work, The Stages of Economic Growth, and Rostow and Millikan's, A Proposal. During the War on Poverty, President Johnson also utilized modernization theory; though current scholarship focuses primarily on specific War on Poverty programs, such as Frank Stricker's, Why America Lost the War on Poverty---And How to Win It, or on the War on Poverty in specific areas of the country, such as David Whisnant's, Modernizing the Mountaineer .;While much work has been done about why the Alliance and the War on Poverty failed, there has been little looking at the connection between the two or how modernization theory impacted the making of policy. I seek to explore the relationship between these two programs and how modernization theory was put into practice in each. In this paper, I argue that due to the way in which modernization theory was used to enact both the Alliance for Progress and the War on Poverty, traditional power structures were strengthened ensuring that, in the Alliance, the goal of creating democratic governments was never reached and in the War on Poverty, the attempt to include the poor more fully in the decision making process was never attained. Additionally, I argue that the very policies which were intended to bolster the democratic process instead led to a resurfacing of dictatorships throughout Latin America and a doubling down by political machines within the local governments affected by the War on Poverty, in order to more firmly hold onto power.