This was the keynote address at the Fourth International Conference on Ethiopian Development Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, August 3, 2007.

The title "An Ethiopian Dilemma" stands to evoke an association to the book by Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma, which played a signal role in helping Americans resolve their longstanding conflict of values regarding racial discrimination. The author hopes to suggest ways in which a social scientist might help Ethiopians get a better grip on their country's problems.

Not since the 16th Century has Ethiopia experienced changes so convulsive as in the past fifty years. 20th-century turbulence stemmed from invasions: first Sudan, then Italy, twice. These invasions pushed Ethiopia toward deliberate programs of internal change, what sociologists call "defensive modernization." One way or another, however, a push toward modernization was inevitable, given steady engulfment by a global civilization. What was not inevitable was how Ethiopia faced the challenges of becoming modern.