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About this book

This comprehensive and broad-ranging introductory text examines the key aspects of contemporary international development from both a practical and theoretical perspective. It addresses the fundamental question of what 'development' actually is and examines social, economic and environmental development across the globe.
Written by experts with extensive field experience across a range of development settings, the book addresses key issues in the development debate. These issues include definitions of development, global influences on development, measurements of development, the contribution of international aid, the relationship between global development and gender equality, the idea of development as 'modernization', theories of underdevelopment, and regional variation.
The third edition has been revised and updated to include discussion of recent events and challenges in the field, as well as coverage of the rise of new economic powers, the impact of new security challenges, and the increasing importance of sustainable development goals.

Table of Contents


The idea of ‘development’ of the world’s poorer countries is contested in its meaning and, therefore, in approaches to it. This contestation has been reflected in varying approaches to the field over the period in which it has been studied, principally since the conclusion of the Second World War. Yet the idea of development is central to the processes by which countries, particularly poorer, developing and post-colonial countries, organize themselves. This book assesses the key issues that such countries are required to address as they try to work towards improving the living standards of their citizens, normatively to eliminate absolute poverty, as well as to construct a political and social environment in which such material benefit can take place. If this book takes a particular approach to the subject, it is by trying to capture the key elements of the field in overview, identifying their main themes and some of the more normative approaches. It does not, however, try to suggest a singular approach to development, nor does it fall into the trap of the latest development ‘fashion’ being necessarily more valuable than those that have preceded it. Indeed, if there is one unifying theme, it is that the fundamental or underlying goals that have informed the development project – the qualitative improvement in the lives of the world’s poor – have not essentially changed. How to go about achieving such improvement, however, has been proposed, questioned, challenged and re-invented.
Damien Kingsbury

1. What is Development?

The term ‘development’ is one that has many different meanings. While many overlap, some inherently contradict each other. To many people development is either a process or outcome that is often bad in terms of its impact on people and the societies in which they live. Some others see development as both a process and an outcome, and as necessarily good. These people see development as something that should be actively sought after. And to complicate matters further, there are many others who define development in many different ways. This chapter broadly attempts to identify, explain and resolve those issues by introducing and outlining various conceptualizations of development. Such an exercise is an important one: if we are to study something, it is essential to first understand what we are studying. It is especially important in a study of development, for without a definition of this term we cannot determine whether a country is achieving higher levels of development, or whether it should be considered developed, developing or underdeveloped. It is also important for development practice. Development practitioners, irrespective of whether they are involved in policy, planning or in implementing development projects, need a working definition of what it is they are seeking to achieve. This chapter looks at various definitions of development. Such an exercise necessarily requires an examination of theoretical material about what development is or ought to be. The chapter adopts a largely chronological examination, given that many new definitions are actually responses to earlier ones.
Mark McGillivray

2. Reassessing Development Theory

In this chapter we explore the key ideas put forward, especially in the last half-century or so, on development and underdevelopment, and place these concepts in the context of the major trends, conditions and prevailing ideologies within the emerging global system. The dominant ideas on the nature and genesis of the very process of development have themselves gone through a series of transformations during this period, but strong counterarguments have also emerged constantly. Thus the history of ideas on development can be characterized as a series of revolutions and counter-revolutions, and in many cases the key ideas from a particular period have re-emerged in a new guise at a later date. While successful development concerns much more than just economic processes or outcomes, economic issues have dominated much of the literature as well as the policy debate, and these key questions relating to economic development are explored in detail in Chapter 3. We also argue that most fundamental changes take place in response to crises of various kinds that challenge accepted paradigms, and the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) – discussed in detail in Chapter 4 – has since 2007 shaken the foundations of the global economy and has had a major impact on our thinking about competing theories of development. The GFC was the result of some fundamental changes taking place in the global political economy, and in turn the crisis itself caused some further transformations to the structure and operation of the overall system, and these changes, their causes and their impacts will be explored at various points in Chapters 3 and 4 and in this chapter.
John McKay

3. The Economics of Development

While most of us accept that development is about much more than economics and growth, there is no doubt that academic and policy debates have been dominated by economic considerations. Work in this area has a long and conspicuous pedigree and has attracted some of the best minds in the history of analytical thought, and not only in the Western world. In the period since the Second World War, there has been a whole series of debates and controversies about the economic dimensions of development theory and practice but these can be summarized in ten basic questions that will be used to structure discussion in the rest of this chapter. First, how does growth happen and what are its major drivers? Trying to understand the origins of growth is perhaps the most basic question of all, and one which absorbs the constant attention of the poorer countries. For some, it is simply a matter of following the right policy recipe – managing exchange rates, labour costs, inflation, investment and the like. But, others suggest, this economic formula will only work in the presence of a number of other key conditions. Human capital must be available in adequate amounts and with the required skills. Appropriate governance structures must be in place to regulate the actions of individuals and companies, and to avoid problems of corruption or exploitation. Political systems must be robust enough to avoid disputes over access to resources or the various benefits of development boiling over into destructive conflicts.
John McKay

4. Continuing Crises: The Developing World and the Global Financial Crisis

The impact of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), and its continuing aftershocks right down to the present have intensified our interest in systemic breakdowns of this kind and heightened debate about their causes, impacts and the most appropriate ways to deal with them. Crises of this dimension, or those as serious as the Asian crisis of 1997– 8, are very traumatic events in their own right, resulting in losses of jobs, income and assets that affect wide sections of the community, and with ramifications that can often be seen for decades afterwards, made much worse in many countries by the absence of any kind of social safety net. In the case of many African countries, which have been in seemingly permanent crisis for some three decades, the impacts are catastrophic. In most cases these events also lead to a rethinking of ideas on economic systems, how they operate and to whose advantage. The Great Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s heralded such a fundamental rethink, largely as an outcome of the work of John Maynard Keynes, resulting in the creation of the whole new subdiscipline of macroeconomics. But the GFC, in spite of its scale, seems to have been rather different. Certainly there has been an outpouring of new literature, and in some important quarters our thinking has been revolutionized, but as was noted in Chapter 3 key aspects of the neoliberal paradigm have been left surprisingly intact as the dominant ideas in economic and political practice. Similarly, the influence of key alliances between the business sector, networks of think tanks and practising neoclassical economists have lost little of their influence.
John McKay

5. Politics and Governance

Many developing countries commonly appear to be beset by problems of corruption, limited accountability, poor governance and limited political representation. They often have only occasional and poor engagement with notions of democracy and with a propensity to various degrees of failure of state institutions. To some extent, this perception is based on a history of failure of developing countries to consistently conform to a modernist Western model of political processes, the value of which has been the subject of lively debate. To a considerable degree, too, many of these features are some of the defining characteristics of a developing country, particularly one that has not progressed in its overall development. More specifically, however, developing countries have each faced a range of economic, social and institutional challenges, some of which have been, or are in the process of being, successfully overcome and many of which have not. Those unresolved challenges can be both a product of, and lead to, the undermining of political stability. Within this framework and recognizing that individual countries face specific historic problems, there are elements of consistency between the issues they have faced which allows a general analysis of development politics that can be applied when understanding specific case studies. This chapter sets out the main features of politics in developing countries, indicating how the relationships between these elements form a complex interweaving of factors that preclude providing simple answers to their multi-faceted problems.
Damien Kingsbury

6. Aid and Development

This chapter considers the various ideas about development that have shaped international development assistance over 60 years. It looks at the various motives for co-operation and assesses the current state and role of development co-operation in light of globalization and significant progress in reducing poverty in developing countries. It also considers the role that development co-operation has played towards the Millennium Development Goals and what future aid will play in a very changed development environment relative to other sources of finance. Since the Second World War there has been a broad understanding among developed countries that in order for the world to become a moderately equitable place, or at least to alleviate some of the worst suffering, there needs to be some form of international assistance. For some developed countries, this follows a perceived sense of responsibility following the process of decolonization. For others, it is intended to assist less developed states to reduce the probability of their further decline and potential for instability. Many donors also provide aid to enhance their own economic, political and strategic interests, through encouraging their exports, or shaping the economic policies or political persuasion of recipient countries and ‘stabilizing’ other states. The alternative term ‘development co-operation’ perhaps captures some of these mutual benefits which have often been influential in the nature and direction of aid.
Janet Hunt

7. Defining and Measuring Poverty

Poverty and development are intrinsically linked. Indeed, it is through the process of development that poverty is reduced. Development seeks to improve the lives of the poor which are characterized by premature death, preventable illnesses, limited access to clean water and sanitation, economic insecurity and (often) illiteracy. Those who are interested in ending poverty and improving the lives of the poor must therefore be primarily interested in good development outcomes. Poverty can be assessed in a number of ways. The most common is using income as a measure of poverty. Under this approach, it is estimated that 600 million people live in poverty on less than US$1.25 per day. However, this is not the only way to understand poverty. It is possible to define – and therefore measure – poverty in a variety of ways. This chapter will begin, therefore, with a review of how poverty is defined and describe the movement from the long-held approach of it being solely a function of income to its more recent multidimensional understanding best encapsulated by the Millennium Development Goals. An assessment of the recent changes in poverty will then be undertaken utilizing various poverty measures and data. To better implement development interventions, it is necessary to define poverty. ‘Clarification of how poverty is defined is extremely important, as different definitions imply the use of different indicators for measurement; they may lead to the identification of different individuals and groups as poor and require different policies for poverty reduction’ (Ruggeri Laderchi et al. 2006: 19).
Matthew Clarke

8. Community Development

Development is intended to improve the lives of people so there is, then, a strong and logical case for development starting with people. Community development focuses on development projects as they directly relate to and include the participation of local, usually rural or small urban, communities. In particular, it addresses issues that are of immediate concern to those communities that are intended to have the capacity to produce continuing localized results. It also reflects the notion that development, broadly conceived, is about the enhancement of the potential of people to emancipate themselves (see Sen 1999a). That is, it is intended to give them greater capacity to exercise control over their own lives (see Tesoriero 2010: 65). This is usually referred to as ‘empowerment’. This ‘empowerment’ approach to development ‘places the emphasis on autonomy in the decision-making of territorially organized communities, local self-reliance, direct and inclusive (participatory) democracy, and experiential social learning’ (Friedman 1992: vii). However, like many other good ideas that have been encapsulated in a single word or phrase, ‘empowerment’ has been used so widely and by so many people and organizations for so many different purposes that it has started to lose meaning: ‘[I]n some countries, governments talk glibly of empowerment of the poor in their development plans, having stripped the term of any real meaning’ (Gardner and Lewis 1996: 118).
Damien Kingsbury

9. Gender and Development

In the early post-war years, when the concept of ‘development’ evolved, issues of gender equity were not considered relevant to the economic development of Third World countries, and it took some time before that changed. Today, significant advances have been made in recognition of the importance of gender in development due to research and activism by feminist researchers and development workers. This is particularly true since the United Nations Decade for Women 1975–85, and the UN World Women’s Conference in Beijing in 1995, both of which had considerable impact on development thinking. Yet following the impacts of debt and adjustment in the 1980s and 1990s and the multiple crises of finance, food and energy in the first decade of the twenty-first century, and despite a global commitment to the MDGs, the challenge of making development gender equitable remains significant. Despite some progress in the last 25 years, gender inequality remains a feature of every region, though it is most pronounced in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Women are under-represented in governmental decision-making in most countries, holding only about 22 per cent of all seats in the world’s national parliaments.1 Although women’s formal labour force participation has increased in recent decades (before declining in some regions since the global financial crisis), we have not enjoyed equal wages or equal employment opportunities with men and we undertake a high proportion of the unpaid care work in society.
Janet Hunt

10. Environment and Development

It is an a priori observation to say that without the environment there can be no development. Any capacity to develop, no matter how it is defined, must occur within the physical context and ultimate limitations of the available material circumstances, the most basic of which is the earth, its waters and its atmosphere: land to grow food on, water to drink and air to breathe. The global rush to achieve and expand material development has been predicated on the capacity of the physical environment to support it. In some cases the environment has been despoiled and in others it is simply running out of resources. Care for the environment and its use in a sustainable and affordable manner, for present and future generations, are perhaps the most critical issues in the development process (UNEP 2015: xvii). The rise in importance of the environment in developing countries has paralleled a growing awareness of such issues in developed countries and, hence, among many bilateral and multilateral aid agencies and aid organizations. While there has been much cross-communication on this issue, increasingly developing countries’ awareness of environmental issues has also come from direct experience with environmentalproblems. The growth of industrialization, often quickly and with few, if any, environmental safeguards, and populations swelling on the back of the ‘green revolution’, has had a real and substantial impact on many developing countries.
Damien Kingsbury

11. Security and Development

It has long been recognized that violence, warfare and various kinds of instability represent one of the major obstacles to development and prosperity. But in the modern world it is also painfully apparent that there is now a wide range of threats to human life and welfare, and indeed to the broader ecosystem upon which human life depends, that includes but goes beyond warfare. With modern military technologies now capable of massive destruction, traditional conflicts – and most of all nuclear warfare – still represent perhaps the most potent threat but other kinds of danger are also attracting more and more attention. The threat of the spread of various kinds of diseases is one example. Even though the First World War caused massive losses of life on both sides, the outbreak of Spanish influenza that quickly followed resulted in a far greater number of deaths. Thus, current fears of the spread of any new strain of influenza or any other virus such as Ebola are now seen as a major threat to global welfare. Similarly, the environmental consequences of continued global warming are seen as having devastating consequences for the environment, for food security and for public health. These are just two examples of concerns in the burgeoning field of human security which have been responsible for a radical rethinking and broadening of the older concepts. This process has been under way for a number of years but was given much impetus after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, an event now known universally as 9/11.
John McKay
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