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Article

International development has remained a key driver of global economic relations since the field emerged in the mid-20th century. From its initial focus on colonization and state building, the field has grown to encompass a wide range of issues, theoretical problems, and disciplinary traditions. The year 1945 is widely considered as a turning point in the study of international development. Three factors account for this: the emergence of the United States as an economic hegemon after World War II; the ideological rivalry that defined the Cold War; and the period of decolonization that peaked around 1960, forcing development issues, including foreign aid, state building, and multilateral engagement, onto the global agenda. Since then, development paradigms have continuously evolved, adapted, and been reinvented to address the persistent gap between the prosperous economies of the “developed North” and the frequently troubled economies of the “Global South.” In the early 2000s, a loosely knit holistic paradigm emerged that recognized the deficiencies of its predecessors, yet built on their strengths. Now called “development cooperation,” this holistic approach embraces methodological pluralism in the scholarly study of development, while recognizing that multiple stakeholders contribute to the development agenda in practice from policy practitioners, entrepreneurs, and corporations to nonstate actors such as community groups and Indigenous peoples. In 2015, development cooperation was on full display with the adoption by 193 countries of the expansive United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to serve as the global guideposts for future development initiatives. While exceedingly optimistic in good times, the economic effects of the global pandemic wrought by the spread of COVID-19 in 2020 threatened to undo many of the perceived global gains realized in the development context over the preceding 25 years. Regardless of the speed of recovery of the global system, the profound reverberations on foreign aid and thus the backsliding of global progress indicators is a likely outcome for many years to come.

Article

Priya Kurian and Robert V. Bartlett

The fundamental conflicts and contradictions between environment and development, and various theoretical and practical efforts to reconcile them, have been a prominent part of the history of development thinking since environmentalism emerged as a significant political phenomenon in the 1960s. The idea of development as change for the better resonates perhaps with all civilizations and across time. All civilizations have development myths which reflect a self-awareness that a particular culture had at some time in the past advanced from a more primitive, less developed state. But these cultural myths of development are only incidentally material or economic. More pronounced concerns over the environment and development emerged during the 1960s and the 1970s. These decades were marked by the emergence of widespread public concern about environmental problems of air and water pollution, and the growth of the environmental movement led to national environmental policy developments and international efforts on the environmental front. In addition, development, environment, and sustainability are all normative concepts with implications for ethics and justice. The vast literature on sustainable development has spawned a range of critiques from a variety of theoretical and disciplinary perspectives. The environmental justice literature developed after early sustainable development literature, and raises questions about intragenerational equity.

Article

Sally J. Matthews

Postdevelopment theory is a compelling and controversial field of thought in contemporary development studies. It gained prominence during the 1990s, when it sparked fierce debate, but its influence has since waned somewhat. This chapter summarizes the contribution of postdevelopment theory to development studies and, more generally, to international studies. Postdevelopment theory’s key contribution was a stringent and multifaceted critique of the idea of development. The critique offered by postdevelopment thinkers went beyond other critical engagements with development theory, in that it sought to reject, rather than reform, development. The critique was strongly informed by concerns about Westernization and by an associated desire to validate, protect, and revive non-Western ways of life. Furthermore, postdevelopment theorists adopt a critical stance toward globalization, seeking to defend the local against the global. After reviewing postdevelopment theory’s radical critique of development, the article provides an overview of critical engagements with postdevelopment theory. Critics have been particularly concerned about postdevelopment theorists’ reluctance or inability to move beyond critique in order to clearly outline possible alternatives to development. While this critique is well founded, the article does describe the ways in which some of the recent work by postdevelopment writers has begun to take on a more constructive character. The chapter concludes that post-development theory is relevant not only to those interested in development theory, but also to all those interested in thinking of alternatives to the capitalist, industrialized way of life that has for so long been held up as an ideal toward which all should strive.

Article

As an interdisciplinary approach, evolutionary systems theory borrows from fields such as statistical physics and evolutionary biology, as well as economics and others, to build on their insights from studies of environments—as systems—and the behavior of actors within those environments—their agency. It provides a bridge between existing and divergent but related strings of research of particular systemic elements as a unifying macro-theory of our social and physical world, fusing multiple approaches into a common model. The unifying key is the focus on the behavior of agents (e.g., individuals, groups, cities, states, world systems) as it relates to the environment (both natural and social) in which these agents act and the feedback between behavior and environment. Evolutionary systems approaches can broadly be placed into two categories: the biobehavioral and the social-evolutionary approaches to the study of international relations with the help of evolutionary theory. The point of evolutionary explanations is not to make the case that humans are incapable of making their own choices—far from it. Learning and selection are critical elements of human agency in evolutionary models. Rather, evolutionary systems theory also includes in its models the structural capacity to make those choices, which derives from and depends on previous choices made, a process also bound by our biological evolution or alternatively by our cognitive limitations and available structural selection mechanisms, regardless of the relative complexity of human learning capacity.

Article

Development cannot be separated from global political economy, but it is an inherent component of the latter. The concept of development was popularized through expansion of colonization, and underwent various transformations as the socio-political structure of the world changed over time. Thus, the central task of development theory is to determine and explain why some countries are underdeveloped and how these countries can develop. Such theories draw on a variety of social science disciplines and approaches. Accordingly, different development paradigms have emerged upon which different scholars have shown profound interests and to which they gave extensive criticisms—modernization, dependency, Marxism, postcolonialism, and globalization. With the recent emergence of the post-modern critique of development, power has become an important subject in the discourse of development. Nevertheless, a full theoretical understanding of the relations between power and development is still in its fledgling stage. Though highly apparent in human societies, social power per se is a polylithic discourse with no unified definition and implication, which has led different proponents of development paradigms to understand power differently. Although there is a dialectic contradiction between the different dialogic paradigms, the reality of development theory is that there is a large choice of theories and models from which field practicioners will draw pragmatically the most appropriate elements, or they will create their own model adapted to the situation.

Article

Prateek Goorha

Modernization theory studies the process of social evolution and the development of societies. There are two levels of analysis in classical modernization theory: the microcosmic evaluations of modernization, which focuses on the componential elements of social modernization; and the macrocosmic studies of modernization focused on the empirical trajectories and manifest processes of the modernization of nations and their societies, economies, and polities. However, there are two key sources of problems with classical modernization theory. The first is the determinism implied in the logic of modernization, while the second relates to the specific development patterns that modernization theory must contend with. A contemporary theory on modernization relates structural change at a higher level of analysis to instrumental action at a lower level of analysis, doing so within a stochastic framework rather than the deterministic one that classical modernization theory implied. In addition, the refocused attention of social scientists on the process of development has led to a renewed interest in the characterization of the relationship between economic development and democratization. The transformation of knowledge into economic development can be examined by looking at the weightless economy—a collection of “weightless” knowledge products such as software, the Internet, and electronic databases. It is closely connected to a weightless political concept called the credible polity, which is a government that creates institutions that credibly protect property rights and are also transparent in their functioning to all members of its society.

Article

Lands of recent settlement refers to countries settled predominantly by European migration during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as the United States, Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Australia, and New Zealand. Current scholarship on the lands of recent settlement reveals a very active agenda of comparative studies covering a broad range of areas and issues: culture, institutions, gender, ethnicity, labor, national identity, geography, ecology, environment, noneconomic factors of growth, and transnationalization and globalization. In explaining the different levels of development between lands of recent settlement and the rest of the world, traditional explanations pointed to propitious external factors and factor endowments. These explanations include the analysis of the history of the United States based on the notion of “frontier development” and the staple theory of growth. Meanwhile, recent works debate whether institutions, culture, or geography plays a crucial role. These works focus on the social, domestic, geographic, and biological elements of development, the cultural and institutional legacy of colonialism, as well as questions on gender, ethnic, and national identity. Although they do not reject the importance of foreign demand, capital, and labor in explaining the development of the lands of recent settlement, they question the adequacy of interpretations based solely on economic factors. Ultimately, the most important contribution of the study of development of lands of recent settlement is in the area of an analysis of transnational networks and globalization.

Article

An international organization (IO) is an ordering principle and a method of conducting international relations. It may refer to formal institutions set up by more than three sovereign states through multilateral treaties to achieve, with the support of a permanent secretariat, shared interests, and desirable objectives. IOs are a byproduct of the European Westphalian anarchical interstate system of international relations and can be traced back to the “Concert of Europe” and to institutions set up throughout the 19th century to facilitate interstate international economic or technical cooperation. After a pause in the 1910s and 1930s, the number of institutions dealing with an ever-expanding range of transnational issues grew exponentially in the second half of the 20th century, becoming a ubiquitous component of the international relations landscape. Numerous contributing factors have accounted for this momentous transformation in interstate relations, and these developments have also fed a steady stream of contending and constantly shifting theoretical approaches to international relations within IO scholarship. There is now a glut of theories, each making different assumptions about the nature of international politics, focusing attention on different aspects of international organization and propounding widely diverging conclusions about the role and functions of IOs. There is, however, a trend among these: the legal/historical tradition which initially provided the intellectual lens through which international organizations were understood has given way to a mix of realist regime theory and liberal intergovernmentalism views.

Article

This essay focuses on two related “radical theories” of development, dependency and world-systems theory, and shows how they emerged as a critique partly of modernization theory and of the development strategy of import substitution industrialization. The dependency and world-systems perspectives on development were very influential among radical development theorists from the late 1960s onwards, all of whom agreed that capitalism had to be theorized as a world-system. These include Andre Gunder Frank, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Theotonio Dos Santos, Walter Rodney, Samir Amin, Arghiri Emmanuel, and Immanuel Wallerstein. Some “stronger” versions of dependency, associated with underdevelopment and world-systems theory, have been introduced in recent years. In particular, A. G. Frank proposed the idea that development and underdevelopment are two sides of the same coin. A more nuanced approach to understanding dependency suggested that development and dependence were in some respects compatible. Wallerstein’s world-systems theory has spawned another approach called world-systems analysis. As theories, the ideas associated with both dependency and the world-systems are problematic, failing, for example, to adequately explain the origins of the capitalist world economy. However, both theories remain useful for understanding the current global order. In addition to recognizing that capitalism can in some respects be regarded as a world-system, the two approaches correctly assume that neoliberalism reinforces hierarchies by undermining the capacities of states to shift out of low value production into higher value sectors, as shown by historical patterns of manufacturing.

Article

The Global Knowledge Society is a broad interdisciplinary effort that emerged in the last decade of the twentieth century to probe the socioeconomic, technological, and geopolitical dimensions of knowledge production, growth, diffusion, and exploitation, in terms of impact on the development of societies worldwide. As a field of inquiry, the Global Knowledge Society encompasses all areas of social science including international relations, international communication, information technology, international development, and economics, as well as across the physical sciences and humanities. It also aims to fill a historical void in traditional social science—from economics and political science to international affairs and development studies—for explaining structural and environmental differences in societal rates of knowledge generation, application and adoption. A number of models on knowledge development have been explored in the literature, including the “Distributed Information Networks” approach, the “Technological Diffusion” approach, the “Genius Theory of Invention” approach, the “Creative and Proprietary Incentives” approach, and the “Cultural Legacy” approach. Models outside the social sciences and humanities also offer some rich possibilities, such as those under the label of “Idea Evolution.” Several of the models suggest the need for rethinking the mystery of persistent societal differences in knowledge growth within and between countries. Future research on knowledge society should consider bringing together researchers and policymakers from many disciplines across the natural and social sciences to review the substance of the field’s comparative methods and findings using interdisciplinary frameworks and complex factors.