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Development Theory and the Global Aid Regime  

Franklin Barr Lebo

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.


Development: Institutional Perspectives  

Malcolm Fairbrother

There are three key literatures on the political economy of development that all emphasize the importance of institutions, but in different and somewhat contradictory ways. These literatures focus on developmental states, good governance, and political economic pathways. The developmental states literature is based largely on case studies of East Asian countries that have, since about 1950, largely “caught up” to the already developed nations in Europe, North America, and the Antipodes. The central conclusion of this literature has been that successful late development requires a competent, committed state bureaucracy, independent enough to be capable of imposing its will on domestic businesspeople, but also sufficiently connected to them so as to make good decisions about what will to impose. The literature focusing on good governance, based largely in economics, also sees state actions and characteristics as keys to positive development outcomes. But while the developmental states literature argues that states need to play an interventionist role in “governing” markets (including not infrequently restricting them), the good governance literature usually looks more favorably on free markets. Finally, research in the political economic pathways literature tends to examine much longer periods of time than the other two literatures, and typically emphasizes economic and political developmental outcomes as joint products of differences in the historical trajectories followed by different countries. The key explanatory variables for this literature are a country’s circumstances in the colonial period, and levels and types of social inequality.


Geographical Perspectives on Development Studies  

Lise Nelson

The history of development studies as a field of academic inquiry can be traced most directly back to the Cold War era when public funding for “development studies” went hand in hand with international development as a state project, particularly in the United States. Economists, sociologists, and planners began to take the development of the “Third World” as an object of analysis, partially in response to new funding opportunities and a discursive context legitimating it as a field of study. By the 1960s, geographers began to take (so-called) “Third World” modernization and development as an object of research. Geographers’ engagement with development as intervention, and eventually the exploration of uneven global development as part of the “ebb and flow of capitalism,” can be divided into three waves. The first wave, visible in the early 1960s, took the quantitative spatial models dominant at the time in geography, such as those concerning urbanization patterns, transportation linkages, regional development, and population movement, and began to apply them to “Third World” contexts. This second wave, linked to the turn toward Marxist theory by a new generation of geographers in the 1960s, explored the uneven geography of wealth and power produced by capitalism and launched a powerful critique of development intervention as imperialism. The third wave of debates emerged in the late 1980s–early 1990s and is associated with poststructural and postcolonial critiques gaining traction at the time in geography and related disciplines.


Women and Development  

Valentine M. Moghadam

Economic development gained prominence as a field of economics after World War II in relation to the prospects of what came to be called underdeveloped, decolonizing, developing, or Third World countries. The period between the 1950s and 1980s saw the emergence of various theories of economic development and policy strategies, and the growth of “development studies” reflected cross-disciplinary interest in the subject. In the early decades, women received little or no attention. If women were discussed at all in policy circles, it was in relation to their role as mothers, an approach that came to be known as the welfare or motherhood approach. The field of women in development (WID) emerged in the 1970s. Since the 1990s, women’s participation and gender dynamics have evolved as central issues in the discourse and policies of international development. Along with changes in theories and policies of economic development, WID developed with distinct or overlapping fields known as women and development (WAD), gender and development (GAD), the efficiency approach, and the empowerment approach. Several basic themes can be identified from the literature on women and gender in development, including: all societies exhibit a division of labor by sex; economic development has had a differential impact on men and women, although the impact on women has tended to be conditioned by class and ethnicity; economic policy making and institutions have a gendered nature, and the ways in which macroeconomics and the social relations of gender influence each other.


International Organization and Human Development  

David C. Ellis

Human development as a concept seeks to make individuals the driving force behind state development. Even though international organizations (IOs) are formal agreements by and for the benefit of member states and have historically prioritized states’ interests, it can still be argued that human beings have long been the central concern of many IOs, even for some of the oldest surviving ones today. Nowadays, the human development framework appears to serve as the principal intellectual and normative construct regarding how to achieve national economic growth while building broad social justice and opportunity for individuals. Its allure derives as much from its coherent philosophical critique of past empirical development failures as it does from its incorporation of values and ethics appealing to a broad spectrum of professionals working in the development community. The human development approach was in part necessitated by the monopolization of economic development by states even from the advent of the enterprise in the 1950s. But despite the widespread adoption of the human development framework as an operative concept in the practice of development, it is not without controversy. Most of the critique is directed toward the underlying premises of the capabilities approach and the elements its adherents must elucidate in order to effectively implement its tenets in policy.


Cultural Political Economy  

William Biebuyck and Judith Meltzer

Cultural political economy (CPE) is an approach to political economy that focuses on how economic systems, and their component parts, are products of specific human, technical, and natural relations. Notwithstanding longer historical roots, CPE emerged as part of the “cultural turn” within the social sciences. Although it is often seen as countering material determinism and the neglect of culture in conventional approaches in political economy, the cultural turn was less about “adding culture” than about challenging positivist epistemologies in social research. For some, cultural political economy continues to be defined by an orientation toward cultural or “lifeworld” variables such as identity, gender, discourse, and so on, in contrast to conventional political economy’s focus on the material or “systems” dimensions. However, this revalorization of the nonmaterial dimensions of political economic life reinforces a sharp distinction between the cultural and the material, an issue which can be traced to the concept of “(dis)embedding” the economy and subordinating society. A more noticeable development, however, is the increasing orientation of critical (CPE) analyses of global development toward the “economization” of the cultural in the context of mutating forms of neoliberalism. Concomitant to the economization of the cultural in narratives of global development is the “culturalization” of the economic. Here attention is paid not just to the growth of cultural industries but to the multiple ways in which culture has been normalized in discourses of global and corporate development.


Foreign Aid  

David Arase

As a policy tool, aid has not been confined to the roles that foreign and economic policy theorists have prescribed for it. Foreign aid attracts controversy because it structures how global poverty will be addressed. Aid’s proponents believe that it can eradicate absolute poverty and close the income gap between rich and poor countries, but its critics believe it holds out only false hope and obscures the real nature of the problem. The unrequited transfer of wealth from a weak nation to a stronger one is an ancient tradition, but the notion that it would be powerful nations transferring wealth to advance the economic development of weaker ones was virtually unheard of until the post-World War II era, particularly during the highly polarized Cold War climate. During this time, aid was used as a means of competition between the United States and the Soviet Union for influence over Third World countries. Aid also became a tool for opening up the markets of the developing world and integrating them into the global economy. The fact that foreign aid has come to mean development assistance since has raised a series of questions debated in the scholarly literature. Moreover, it is universally acknowledged that donors use aid to achieve objectives other than development and poverty reduction.


Sustainable Development  

M. Leann Brown

Sustainable development (SD) is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This definition is articulated in Our Common Future, a political manifesto published in 1987 by the United Nations’ World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). SD promises to resolve in a positive-sum manner the most daunting economic, environmental, political, and social challenges the world is currently facing. However, it has also become a much contested concept, mainly due to the comprehensiveness, ambiguity, and optimism inherent in its underlying assumptions. Ongoing debates within the literature deal with how to define, operationalize, and measure SD; how economic development and environmental protection are conceptualized as mutually supportive; how “nature” is treated in the literature; equity and overconsumption challenges to SD; and the governance, social learning, and normative transformations required to achieve SD. Reaching some consensus on definitions and operationalization of the multiple aspects of SD will lead to standards by which to assess development and environmental policies. Among the most urgent issues that must be addressed in future research are the roles and influence of the relatively new participants in governance, such as intergovernmental/nongovernmental organizations and corporations; the new modes of governance including public-private and private-private partnerships and network governance; and the impacts of implementing compatible and contradictory policies on the various levels and across policy areas.


Development and Religion  

Robert M. Bosco

The study of religion and development focuses on how the moral and ethical resources of the world’s major faith traditions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism might tame the worst excesses of market civilization. Whereas states, corporations, and international development institutions often define “development” as economic growth and all of the adjustments required to achieve it, religious approaches consider the consequences of this conception of development and recommend that the achievement of material gain be tempered by compassion, conscience, a greater concern for social equity, and a responsible application of science and technology to both the social and natural worlds. The origins of the field of religion and development can be traced back to Max Weber's seminal investigations into the elective affinities between Protestantism and the spirit of capitalism. In the 1980s, the majority of scholarly literature grappled with the meaning and significance of Weber’s basic ideas in various contexts and locales as scholars examined whether, when, and how religious traditions enhance or inhibit development at the international, regional, national, or community levels of analysis. After a period of hibernation, the study of religion and development was reenergized in the late 1990s as religious leaders and faith-based organizations played a central role in challenging the policies and practices of international development institutions, especially the World Bank.


Migration and Development  

Philip Martin

There are three factors that persuade a migrant to cross borders: demand-pull in destination areas, supply-push in origin areas, and network factors that connect them. On the basis of this demand-pull, supply-push, and network framework, a distinction can be made between economic migrants who are encouraged to migrate because of a demand for their labor abroad and noneconomic migrants who cross national borders to seek refuge or to join family members living abroad. Many economists argue that trade and migration have similar effects on sending and receiving countries. However, there is no solid evidence showing that more migration accelerates economic development in migrant-sending countries. The effects of international migration on development are often grouped in the 3-R channels of recruitment, remittances, and returns, each of which can operate in ways that speed up or slow down economic development. Recruitment refers to who goes abroad, remittances are the amount of the money earned by migrants abroad that is sent home, and returns focus on what migrants do after a period of employment abroad. Majority of industrial countries have national laws that require all workers to receive minimum wages and migrants to receive the same wages and benefits as local workers. From the point of view of some developing countries, minimum and equal wages are a form of protectionism aimed at limiting the number of migrant service providers. A major challenge of the twenty-first century is how to resolve this trade-off between migrant numbers and migrant rights.


Microfinance and Social Performance  

Robin Gravesteijn and James Copestake

Microfinance refers to an array of financial services—including loans, savings, and insurance—available to poor entrepreneurs and small business owners who have no collateral and, otherwise, would not qualify for a standard bank loan. Those who promote microfinance generally believe that such access will help poor people out of poverty. For many, microfinance is a way to promote economic development, employment, and growth through the support of micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses; for others, it is a way for the poor to manage their finances more effectively and take advantage of economic opportunities while managing the risks. One of the newer fields that is getting more attention within microfinance is the measure of microfinance institutions’ (MFIs) social performance, which broadly is an indication of how well an MFI meets the social goals outlined in its mission and vision. Social performance is reflected in a wide range of indicators, including an MFI’s policies towards employees, like providing health care or maternity leave; to what degree an MFI targets the poorest of the poor for financial services; an MFI’s policies on environmental conservation; how low an MFI keeps its interest rates; how transparent an MFI is about these interest rates and other loan terms; and how an MFI’s services translate into improved lives for their clients.


Intergovernmental Organizations and International Governance of Migration and Ethnic Politics  

Michael Johns

An intergovernmental organization, or international organization (IO), is an organization composed primarily of sovereign states (referred to as member states), or of other intergovernmental organizations. They are important aspects of public international law. IOs are established by a treaty that acts as a charter creating the group, and these treaties are formed when lawful representatives (governments) of several states go through a ratification process, providing the IO with an international legal personality. IOs also take part in issues regarding migration and the prevention of ethnic conflicts. Scholars create a general criterion in defining “politically significant” ethnic groups that can be used to help bring into focus ethnicity in regard to IO involvement. Only the groups that have suffered or benefited from discrimination and have been politically mobilized are included in this criterion. This standard is beneficial when considering IOs as they will only become involved in ethnic group/state relations for groups such as these. Meanwhile, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is an intergovernmental organization that provides services and advice concerning migration to governments and migrants, including internally displaced persons, refugees, and migrant workers. From its roots as an operational logistics agency, the IOM has widened its scope to become the leading international agency working with governments and civil society to advance the understanding of migration issues, encourage social and economic development through migration, and uphold the human dignity and well-being of migrants.


Income Inequality and Economic Development  

Matthew McKeever

The nature of the relationship between economic development and income inequality has long been the subject of considerable debate. Economic growth has very different effects on poverty, depending on a country’s level of income inequality. In high inequality countries, economic growth that raises the overall level of income disproportionately tends to benefit the rich, whereas policies that encourage economic growth while reducing income inequality will greatly accelerate the achievement of poverty reduction goals. Thus, understanding how income inequality and economic development are linked is important for establishing economic growth policies that reduce poverty. The literature on the economic development–income inequality nexus in industrial society places emphasis on the causes of current social inequality. The central and most cited paper in the literature is S. Kuznets’s “Economic Growth and Income Inequality” (1955), which proposed an inverted U-shaped relationship between development and inequality over the course of industrialization. Some scholars have tried to build upon Kuznets’s theory by focusing on his claim that income inequality is a function of the nature of regulations put on the market. Other studies deal with the importance of studying the relationship between democracy and inequality, the effect of the nature of the government on shaping inequality compared to industrialization, and the implications of globalization for income inequality. This overview of the literature shows that there is little true consensus on the relationship between inequality and development and highlights two major areas for improvement: measurement and data quality.


Terrorism and Foreign Policy  

Amanda Skuldt

Before the late 1960s, terrorism was commonly viewed as an internal problem that belonged to the realm of policing rather than foreign policy. The Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s airplane hijackings in Europe, combined with the 1972 Munich Olympics wherein eleven Israeli athletes were captured and held hostage by Black September, gave rise to some foundational counterterrorism policy features; for example, no negotiations with terrorists. But it was not until the 1983–1984 attacks on its embassy and the Marine barracks in Beirut that the United States began to see terrorism as a policy concern. The terrorist attacks of September 11 also led scholars to become increasingly interested in integrating work on international terrorism into international relations (IR) and foreign policy theories. The theories of IR, foreign policy concerns of policy makers, and terrorism studies intersect in areas such as the development of international law governing terrorism, poverty, economic development, globalization, military actions, and questions of whether deterrence is still possible in the age of decentralized terrorist groups and suicidal terrorism. Despite decades of research on terrorism and counterterrorism, some very basic and important gaps remain. Issues that the academic literature on foreign policy or terrorism must address include the effects of the evolving organizational structure of terrorist groups, illegal immigration, the radicalization of European Muslims, and the phenomenon recently identified as “swarming.”


Economic and Social Rights  

William F. Felice

Economic rights refer to the right to property, the right to work, and the right to social security. Social rights are those entitlements necessary for an adequate standard of living, including rights to food, housing, health, and education. Since economic rights have a social basis, and social rights have an economic basis, both classifications are considered of equal importance and interdependent. The intellectual and social dimensions of economic and social rights have evolved from at least four spheres: religion, philosophy, politics, and law. Throughout history, individuals and groups debated and accepted obligations to help the needy and prevent suffering. There were both religious and secular dimensions to these undertakings. Early human rights advocates moreover proclaimed an interdependence between civil and political rights and economic and social rights and criticized those who made too sharp a distinction between them. A central debate over economic and social rights relates to their legal validity. Some scholars argue that by their very nature, economic and social rights are not “justiciable.” Another issue is the link between economic and social rights in meeting basic human needs and the alleviation of global poverty. The right to development is also important in debates on economic and social rights, as it attempts to correct the economic distortions left by the legacy of colonial domination. Perhaps the most promising new approach to economic and social rights is Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach, which focuses on what individuals need for adequate functioning.


Modernization Theory  

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.


Development, Welfare Policy, and the Welfare State  

Gyu-Jin Hwang

One of the most significant structural transformations in postwar capitalist democracies has been the rise of the welfare state. The theoretical intent of the traditional sociological and economic inquiry into the welfare state has focused less on trying to understand the welfare state itself and more on to what extent and under what conditions welfare provisions influence social and economic outcomes such as equality, employment, and labor market behavior. Over time, however, scholars have turned toward historical and political factors. G. Esping-Andersen identified three types of welfare state that seem incongruent with the real worlds of welfare capitalism: the “liberal,” “conservative/corporatist,” and “social democratic.” In contrast to the period until the mid-1980s that focused on welfare state expansion, the late 1980s saw the emergence of new streams of literature whose emphasis was on welfare state retrenchment. More recently, scholars have advanced the argument that the globalization of capital markets has effectively increased the power of capital over governments that seek to expand or maintain relatively high levels of social protection and taxation. Another notable trend is the increased intellectual interest in the relation between development and social policy and the growing interface between social policy and economic policy. A question that arises is whether distinctive welfare regimes have the ability to survive, particularly if their norms clash with those of the competition, or Schumpeterian workfare state.


The Right to Development  

Daniel J. Whelan

The right to development is an internationally recognized human right that entitles every human person and all peoples to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural, civil, and political development. It is a right held both by individual human persons and all peoples. The right was enshrined in the Declaration on the Right to Development, adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in December 1986. It has since been reiterated as indivisible with all other human rights in scores of UN resolutions and summit outcome documents, most notably the 2030 Agenda for Development, adopted by consensus in 2015. The right to development entails a variety of obligations on states (at the domestic and international levels), regional actors, non-state actors (e.g., transnational corporations), and international organizations. Since 2019, the UN Human Rights Council’s Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development has been discussing a draft Convention on the Right to Development to codify these obligations. Since it first came under discussion at the UN in the 1970s, the right to development has consistently generated debate and controversy among scholars and governments, which has frustrated the formation of a consensus around both conceptual issues (the nature and scope of such a right and how it is defined) and practical considerations (the extent of obligations, who holds them, and challenges of monitoring and implementation). There are those, especially (but not exclusively) in the Global South, who view the right to development as rightfully prioritizing the international duty to cooperate, which is a prerequisite for, first, the realization of economic, social, and cultural rights, and then of civil and political rights. This duty obligates developed countries to provide economic, technological, and other resources to developing states, free of conditionalities. In contrast, although generally agreeing that there are important “soft” obligations for development, skeptics, especially (but not exclusively) in the Global North, are wary of making such aid and assistance obligatory, and they are concerned that the right to development may be (or has been) used to justify curtailing especially civil and political rights in the name of “development.” They instead argue for a “human rights approach to development” that entails national-level commitments to good governance, transparency, accountability, and respect for all human rights in the development process.