Development: Discourses and Dissatisfaction

Basic development theories as practical guide to plan and growth: A summary of several development theories that were developed after the mid-20th century



It is ironical but we live in the age of development. Never in history had development been studied so microscopically like it has been in the last six or seven decades. In studying the changing trends and ideas of development discourse, we can see that it is a dynamic process. Initially it was the white saviours who took the initiative to come up with a plan like that of the modernisation theory.

However, over the years, more experts from the developing countries, especially from South America and Asia, have joined the bandwagon in framing theories on the issue. The thinking is as diverse as the number of countries yet we can see a brief outline about the several theories while recollecting the historical evolution of development paradigms. Before we start it might be worthwhile to see the definition of development in our context. 

definitions: ① The systematic use of scientific and technical knowledge to meet specific objectives or requirements. ② An extension of the theoretical or practical aspects of a concept, design, discovery, or invention. ③ The process of economic and social transformation that is based on complex cultural and environmental factors and their interactions. ④ The process of adding improvements to a parcel of land, such as grading, subdivisions, drainage, access, roads, utilities. (Business Dictionary)

development economics
A branch of economics that focuses on improving the economies of developing countries. Development economics considers how to promote economic growth in such countries by improving factors like health, education, working conditions, domestic and international policies and market conditions. It examines both macroeconomic and microeconomic factors relating to the structure of a developing economy and how that economy can create effective domestic and international growth. (Investopedia)

Development economics had its origin in the 1940s. As categorised by Professor Jan Nederveen Pieterse, here’s a brief timeline of development theories:

Modernisation Theory: Waste from the West?

One of the first in the lot, the modernisation theory outlined that plan and growth are a result of the transformation of traditional/primitive societies into modern societies by doing away their past while usurping the future. However, it does not say that the theory is too West-centric albeit it is. It assumes that the transformation is certain but again it does not explain when in the rush for makeover, many of these societies have further disintegrated as evident from the Third World countries, another term popularised by the West to make an us-and-them label.

However, if we consider the origin of these theories there is nothing surprising. In the 1930s, the United States started adopting a foreign policy built on the principles of non-intervention yet it changes with FD Roosevelt’s sloganeering of the oft-quoted Arsenal of Democracy around 1940, when the president declared his support for the Allies during the World War II. Soon in less than a year, the Atlantic Charter was issued that pompously asserted the objectives of the war. Incidentally, the charter also laid the foundation of the United Nations. It was during this period that the American government felt the need for the design of purportedly a concrete and organised way, as a global contractor, to accentuate development in every country across the globe.

The earliest postulation of development theories can be traced back to those days of the United States. For that matter, around the same time, the superpower also commenced its ridiculous export of democracy, even if it is interpreted all along as a plan to pillage resources from target countries. In fact, it has been the export of capitalism that serves its self-interest. The only good thing that came out of this farcical period was the deeper studies on the concept of development theory regardless of its merits or demerits. In another word, it was a consequence of the United States’ defence mechanism against the rise of communism in the 1950s, which was made even more significant by a necessity to understand the emergence of a relatively new world order—with widespread decolonisation and the then rising national independence movements of various Asian and African countries.

Theoretically, modernisation theory was built on the ideas propounded in two models: (1) The Rostow’s Stages of Growth, which states that a developing nation passes five stages of development as in (i) Existence as a traditional society, (ii) Preconditions for take-off, (iii) Take-off, (iv) Drive to maturity and (v) Age of high mass consumption (Source: The University of Okhlahoma ) and (2) the Harrod–Domar Growth Model that defines growth in terms of savings and capitals. These are often termed as linear-growth theories.

In the post-WWII period from 1948 to 1952, the United States spent US$ 13 million as aid assistance to Western European countries under the European Recovery Program, which is more popularly known as the Marshall Plan. Such an initiative had influenced the linear stages of growth model, which was one of the defining features of the modernisation theory. Under this context in accordance with both the aforementioned models a country like India never stands the chance of getting developed for reasons that we will see in the following paragraphs. Now in development-ese, it has become a sort of ritual to study the rise of Indian ostensible democratic system as an anti-thesis to this theory.  

Modernisation theory explains everything but the explicit policies of the United States as in its foreign relations, trade and commerce interests and illegal military interventions that continue till today. Through this theory, the experts assume that change follows a one-track path, from being backwards to developed or from a simple traditional society to a modern complex society through the Darwinian way of evolution, rather than in a kind of social-revolution manner. It implied that development was more biological than political. Another essential aspect of this theory is the role of technology that purportedly helped modify manual labour into machine power and differentiates the urban from the rural—all of which believed to be essential in the transformation of a traditional society into that of a modern.

To put it briefly, the West is modern, others are primitive; and the West is developed, others are underdeveloped; so it is legitimate, for the North Americans and Europeans, to impose the process of Westernisation on whichever country their modern, advanced policy-makers handpick for the supposedly modernisation purposes. To make it more valid, the theorists hypothesised that it was a long-term course. No wonder the flaws in this theory started appearing more obvious in less than two decades and validated the Hegelian view that the history of philosophy is ‘a necessary development of the successive philosophies from one another, so that the one of necessity presupposes another preceding it’.

But before we move further it would be worthwhile to see the conditions that made the postulation of this kind of theory possible. In its foundation that was laid two to three centuries ago, we can see the origin of capitalism as an alternative to the decline of feudal economy in the present-day western and northwestern Europe where, in most cases to this day, material gain and accumulation are a prominent mark of progress. Those were also the days when we saw the institution of modern entities such as a nation-state, free market, bureaucracy and army and as explained by writers such as Immanuel Wallerstein, in his ideas on the growth of a world economic system, Adam Smith in his literal wealth of the nations and Emile Durkheim in his division of labour. No study can get more West-centric than this!

Between the lines, we can also see the political economies of those days were responsible for the rise of colonialism, with the worst effects on the European peripheries, or the continents of Asia, Africa and South America. North America and Australia were spared because, obviously, the Europeans immigrated directly to these continents while trading disasters with the native communities. In other unrelated areas, race became a global issue, so were poverty and the crises of underdeveloped countries that have been clubbed together under the so-called Third World in contemporary history. As a side-note, the term Third World is contentious because it has been made to comprise the least developed countries, developing countries and a few developed countries as well; the last of them because of their non-alignment policies during the Cold War. The term is also equally contestable from the ways the West has been using it with overt arrogance.

Structuralism: The Centre and the Border

It was no wonder when the other America, the Latin countries were the first to introduce a system as a substitute for the modernisation theory. One organisation of significance was the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), formerly the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA)—which according to its own words, was ‘founded to contribute to the economic development of Latin America, coordinate actions directed towards this end and reinforce economic relations among the countries and with other nations’. It has been ‘expanded to the Caribbean countries with the objective of promoting social development’. Further, structuralism put a question mark over the inequality in living standards and gross domestic product (GDP) between the developed North and the underdeveloped South.

Structuralism can be defined as a process of improving the whole rather than its parts. It claimed that a system should be studied as a collective or rather considered from its overall relations between its constituents. As the term suggests, structuralism emphasises on social structures to explain the phenomena of social conditions as well as development plans. Theoretically, it works on the two frameworks of epistemology and ontology. Epistemology, according to the Oxford Dictionaries, is ‘the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion’. Ontology is ‘the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being’ or ‘a set of concepts and categories in a subject area or domain that shows their properties and the relations between them’.

For the structuralists the world is sharply divided into the centre and the periphery or the developed and the underdeveloped. Similar to the Western concepts of developed and underdeveloped countries propounded by modernisation theorists, structuralists view that the centre is articulate and diverse while the periphery is incoherent and fragmented. Another main contention of the structuralists is that the government, especially in a developing country, must lead from the front with informed intervention for social transformation. In an underdeveloped economy the market is unstable and hence the government intervention.

Over two decades of deliberations, the theory had its peak in the 1960s. In accordance with this theory, the ECLAC assured that the sole goal of growth in the underdeveloped and developing countries were inherent in their own will and commitment and that they can help each other without relying on the developed countries. This is explained through the concept of import substitution industrialisation (ISI), which can be simplified as a policy of replacing foreign imports with domestic production. Alternatively, it exposed the demerits of dependency while advocating self-reliance especially from the perspective of trade and economics.

The origin of structuralism, which had redefined political economy and economic theory in that era, can also be traced back to the political changes in the mid-20th century when several countries were decolonised and became independent sovereigns. If we consider it from other points of view, structuralism was a wave during its peak days encompassing diverse areas of study and we can refer to Noam Chomsky in linguistics, Claude Lévi-Strauss in anthropology, Christian Metz in film studies and Raúl Prebisch in economics and so on—with the shared objective of knowing an entity from its deep structure.

The theory might be falling out of use now but the essence is still present in contemporary politics just as we can see in the demand for a government regulation, like the Inner Line Permit system in a place like Manipur, where violence and corruption are like the two magnetic poles; though it is an entirely different issue that the very foundation of trade and industry is highly shallow in this Indian frontier state. Besides, it is a direct contrast to the neoclassical school’s claim for non-intervention; and the left has find fault in the inability of the structuralists to explain the concepts such as subsistence labour and the latter’s flawed elaboration of international commodity prices. As a theory it might have failed but structuralism offers us a chance to understand the politics of development. Its improvisation resulted in the ideation of post-structuralism in the following decades.

Dependency Theory: Of Masters and Compradors

There is no standard definition of this theory but a few shared objectives between its proponents. The world faces a division into a centre and the periphery, the former which consists of developed nations while the latter a group of nations with low per capital gross national product—and their relationship is marked by a dynamic process in the sense that the connection breeds more inequalities. Precisely, according to the theory, underdevelopment is a phenomenon created by the dichotomy of these two divisions.

Unlike from the days of structuralism, the concepts of ‘core’ and ‘periphery’ had somehow altered with the onset of dependency theory, which speculated that resources flow from the periphery, which remains impoverished, to the core, which becomes wealthier without any consideration for the unique features of the peripheries. While modernisation theory experts maintained the significance of underdeveloped economies to ameliorate into a common and developed global system through investment and innovation, dependency theorists rebuff the view claiming it only perpetuates the dependence of weaker economies on rich countries. In another sense, the peripheries are impoverished only at the expense of growing capitalist abuse that benefits solely the centre.

One of the remarkable examples is the union of India vis-à-vis the state of Manipur, which is physically and politically located in one of the peripheries. Just as it is noted in the discourse of this theory that the centre (New Delhi) is not only responsible but the comprador ruling class and lumpenbourgeoisie (elected representatives, their company and high government officials) of the periphery have blood in their hands too. This implies the locals are exploited on two levels. Manipur also depends on New Delhi entirely for its economical existence.

To understand more about the core and the periphery we can refer to the Modern History Sourcebook: Summary of Wallerstein on World System Theory, in which it is mentioned:

Wallerstein proposes four different categories: core, semi-periphery, periphery and external, into which all regions of the world can be placed. The categories describe each region’s relative position within the world economy as well as certain internal political and economic characteristics. [1] The Core: The core regions benefited the most from the capitalist world economy. [2] The Periphery: On the other end of the scale lay the peripheral zones. These areas lacked strong central governments or were controlled by other states, exported raw materials to the core, and relied on coercive labour practices. The core expropriated much of the capital surplus generated by the periphery through unequal trade relations. [3] The Semi-Periphery: Between the two extremes lie the semi-peripheries. These areas represented either core regions in decline or peripheries attempting to improve their relative position in the world economic system. [4] External Areas: These areas maintained their own economic systems and, for the most part, managed to remain outside the modern world economy. Russia fits this case well. (Fordham University
Dependency theory can be considered as an evolutionary product of structuralism. A couple of similar considerations connecting them are the critique against blatant inequalities between the developed and underdeveloped as well as the role of capitalism in driving a wedge between the rich and the poor. The last reason also explains the inclination of some dependency theorists towards Neo-Marxism and re-looking into colonialism. However, these theorists were more functionalist in their approach than the structuralists.

In accordance with this theory, underdevelopment implies a condition of having and using available resources but which benefits the centre/core and the compradors or its agents as noted earlier. The condition is different from ‘un-development’ where resources are yet to be utilised—for which we can cite the example of Manipur again. It produces enough electricity power, for instance, but it cannot afford to use its own supply. The province is also resource-rich but it is one of the most backward states in India. It has been facing the brunt of coercion into the European economic system when the erstwhile kingdom was annexed to British India in 1891. Likewise, poor countries are poor because they have merely existed as a producer of cheap labour and raw materials without ever getting the chance to compete with the ‘centre’.

However the caveat of this theory appears in its homogenisation of both developed and underdeveloped economies. One of the harshest criticisms of this theory came from those who endorse the free-market school of thought. Their contention is that dependency theory breeds more corruption and inefficiency as well as reduces competitiveness because the government subsidises industries and puts a cap on outside imports. For the critics, dependency theory also puts too much stress on imperialism to explain the existing relations between the nations, especially between those of the North and the South. Another flaw also arises from its sole economic consideration without explaining the politics of such a relationship good or bad—neither has it considered the social and cultural factors. The lack of empirical foundation compounded by the absence of a fixed definition and a methodology also force dependency theory to be knocked down by its own inadequacies.

Similarly to the duration of modernisation theory, dependency theory started losing its sheen after two decades of arguments and counter-arguments around the 1980s. Observers maintain that the collapse of socialism and communism numbered the days for this theory. 

Neo-liberalist Theory: Trade Not Aid

The ideas of neo-liberalism, paradoxically to the very term with a ‘neo’ prefix, can be traced back to the 18th century, however in development discourse it rose during the 1970s, in complete contrast to the then existing theories and concepts that were riddled with defects and loopholes. The term, however, is valid considering its essence, which appropriates the old ideas but follow newer approaches. It is also synonymous to globalisation and free market or in the case of India, to that of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation. For many people, this is the ultimate worldview today just like the introduction of theories and models in the post-WWII period.

Again, theoretically, it pushes for removing the structuralist school of thought to offer space for the Washington Consensus—a set of ten policy prescriptions recommended by Washington-based global financial institutions, but which according to the Centre for International Development at Harvard University is ‘a term that has become a lightning rod for dissatisfaction amongst anti-globalisation protestors, developing country politicians and officials, trade negotiators and numerous others. It is often used interchangeably with the phrase “neoliberal policies”.’ 

Neo-liberalism thrives on the ideas of potential utilisation of transaction while enhancing the size, number of entities and reach of the transaction across the globe—where market is the ultimate form of political economy. Its slogan is trade, not aid. The evolution of world history explains the rise of this theory. Independence is the buzz word and in the neo-liberal world the state should have the least intervention. In plain-speak we prefer banking with the private banks to government banks and as much as we know, in India, we would subscribe to Airtel for Internet connection rather than to MTNL or BSNL. Neoliberals also believe the best that a government can do is to provide a business-friendly atmosphere through, perhaps, legal and infrastructure solutions.

In their sole pursuit for profit and free market policies, however, neo-liberals have gone overboard while often recommending the government that the latter should do away with the socialistic agenda as in providing subsidised public services to the poor. Wealth or poverty, it is just a state of mind and what is more concrete for the neo-liberals is the removal of any kind of barriers that impede the flow of goods and services, or transaction as noted above. A long time ago, people tried separating religion from politics; now the proponents of this theory want to separate economics from politics in the guise of removing government’s intrusion. Then it is so apt that some people consider market is the new state religion.

What are the objectives of neo-liberalism? The primary objective is economic development—but this should not be confused with the concept of development we have been discussing here. To put it briefly, general development is altruistic or collective but neo-liberalistic development is selfish or individualistic. For those who believe in this theory they contend that free trade will do good to everyone because everyone has an equal contribution though it does not explain the imbalanced flow of good from the North to the South, for instance, as explained by structuralists or dependency theorists. Their contention also includes the criticism of government public service, which is free of cost as contrast to their MRPed good and services and as a form of encouraging incompetency and wastage. For them, ‘market’ solutions will solve all kinds of problems.       

In a vast country like India, it has been possible to incorporate neo-liberalism as well as state intervention though not without rebuke from certain quarters. People’s movements against special economic zones in rural areas are as common as proud declaration of the urbanites, read the superficial middle class of mainland India, that the country is an emerging world power. However, this relatively new form of McDonald economy has posed more questions than answers, which we can observe in the overall effect of this speculation that all the solutions are available in trade and market.     

Neo-liberal ideas were born in crucial times. In India it was balance-of-payments disaster in the early 1990s. Elsewhere, the Latin American debt crisis in the 1980s compelled the necessity of a new system; and the Berlin wall had collapsed and so was the USSR that resulted in the conclusion of Cold War.  At the outset, observers maintained that this is just a design to impose US dollar as the absolute in the international monetary system and that when it fails, the US resorts to military expeditions for resources in the name of exporting democracy.

Closer home, the concept is to create investment opportunities though in the new-found glory, all the policy-makers are caught off-guard when the farmers have been committing suicides in droves all across mainland India. The neo-liberals have no answer for these artificial calamities.

Capitalism, as the war-cry of the neo-liberal theory, has been also creating a consensus against growing injustice and inequality across the world. The casualty includes democracy too. The overall system has pushed a huge section of people, literally on the edge, while validating the proverbial rich getting richer and poor getting poorer. Professor Robert Kuttner explains it succinctly in The Limits of Prospect:

At (the) bottom, three big things are wrong with the utopian claims about markets. First, they ‘misdescribe’ the dynamics of human motivation. Second, they ignore the fact that civil society needs realms of political rights where some things are not for sale. And third, even in the economic realm, markets price many things wrong, which means that pure markets do not yield optimal economic outcomes. (Source: The American Prospect, 

Kuttner concludes: ‘The grail of a market economy untainted by politics is the most dangerous illusion of our age.’ Simon Reid-Henry further wrote in Neoliberalism's ‘trade not aid’ approach to development ignored past lessons that ‘Neoliberal development policy was radical and abstract, but its uncompromising approach proved dangerous in the real world’. (Source: The Guardian

In another sense, issues such as the collapse of Asian Tigers and recession in the first decade of the new millennium have proven sufficiently that all is not well with neo-liberal economics. State intervention is always discouraged but when they are in trouble, the neo-liberals always turn to the state for aid. Above all, free market is a misnomer and in recent times this was best exemplified by the disastrous plan of Free Basics, that was developed in September 2015 by Facebook with six tech companies but which was scrapped in February 2016 on the basis of violating net neutrality (Net Neutrality: Save the Internet Three hundred years ago, Adam Smith had observed that ‘People of the same trade seldom meet together but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices’.

Postdevelopment Theory: Alternative Perspectives

What do we get or become when we have options but we are disillusioned with all of them?

Postdevelopment theory is an outcome from the inadequacy of previous development paradigms. In essence it is a critique of a critique, so to say, because it questions the very concept of development. When we talk of this theory there are a couple of researchers we cannot afford to ignore. One of them is Wolfgang Sachs who edited and co-authored The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power in 1992. In the introduction of the volume, Sachs wrote about the changing trends in development discourse:

The idea of development stands like a ruin in the intellectual landscape. Delusion and disappointment, failures and crimes have been the steady companions of development and they tell a common story: it did not work.

Another prominent scholar in this field is Arturo Escobar. In The Invention of Development he remarked:

Development was—and continues to be for the most part—a top-down, ethnocentric, and technocratic approach that treats people and cultures as abstract concepts, statistical figures to be moved up and down in the charts of ‘progress’. Development was conceived not as a cultural process (culture was a residual variable, to disappear with the advancement of modernisation) but as a system of more or less universally applicable technical interventions intended to deliver some ‘badly needed’ goods to a ‘target’ population. It comes as no surprise that development became a force so destructive to third world cultures, ironically in the name of people’s interests.

This speculation is a result of frustration with the then existing deliberations on development. Earlier the establishment of a new thinking used to be a substitute to other theories, as in structuralism that replaced modernisation arguments and dependency theory that replaced structuralist methodologies. However, we can see that postdevelopment theorists are more concerned with a substitute for development, or in the words of Escobar: ‘They are interested not in development alternatives but in alternatives to development’ that completely do away with ‘the whole epistemological and political field of post-war development’.

Theirs is a radical approach that rejects the classical development thinking while giving attention to ‘local’ issues and challenges. According to JN Pieterse, that kind of thinking was ‘rejected not merely on account of its results but because of its intentions, its worldview and mindset’. The primary instrument for postdevelopment theory, according to Michel Focault, is ‘discourse’ that deconstructs ‘development’ and examines the causes and effects as well as the dynamics of development. One of the findings of deconstruction is that development is a highly artificial construct that thrives on Western hegemony and neo-colonial tendencies.

Sachs has further elaborated that all along the ideas of development are responsible for instituting further dichotomies of rich and poor, modern and tradition, developed and underdeveloped in which the latter wants to emulate the former; hence the necessity of the concept of ‘anti-development’ and ‘beyond development’ or ‘alternatives to development’. Sachs’ observation echoes one of the Paulo Friere’s postulates in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed that ‘the oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors’ and that ‘the oppressed want at any cost to resemble the oppressors’. In another word, development has been solely influenced by the process of Westernisation that has resulted in a downward spiral of underdevelopment and utter failure. The ideas of these theorists are in supporting initiatives right from the local grassroots level.

For this school of thought that grew out of rejecting other theories, it comes as no blow that opponents are not kind when talking to postdevelopment enthusiasts. One of the criticisms is the latter’s perpetuation of cultural relativism. Postdevelopment theorists posit that tradition and culture are best understood by only those who follow them—but the critics, especially those who believe in rationalism, equate it as furthering extreme relativism that can have grave consequences. For instance, regardless of intentions, it endorses the views of fundamentalists and traditionalists. Besides, in their rejection of the development discourses, it is argued that the theorists have also rejected the myriad layers of development ideas and thinking. Some critics have also questioned the efficiency of grassroots movements.   

More Contemporary Theories and Approaches of Development

Some of the contemporary development discourses include participatory development and sustainable development, human development theory, new growth theory and theory of coordination failure.

Participatory development was conceptualised during the founding of Basic Needs Approach—a system that determines poverty in developing economies—in the 1970s. As the term suggests, it calls for an active engagement of the primary stakeholders in decision-making and policy implementation processes. One of its merits is the enhancement of transparency and accountability. Though it might be challenging, participatory development can be clubbed under a common postdevelopment roof as these approaches share core beliefs as well as goals, strategies and priorities.

In this age of global warming, sustainable development has become a catchphrase in development discourse. It is ‘development balancing near-term interests with the protection of the interests of future generations’ with an emphasis on localised issues. Unlike the other development approaches, which were mostly conceived in Latin America, the concept of sustainable development has its origin in Europe. According to the World Bank: ‘The three pillars of sustainable development—economic growth, environmental stewardship and social inclusion—carry across all sectors of development, from cities facing rapid urbanisation to agriculture, infrastructure, energy development and use, water availability and transportation.’

Human development theory is a blend of politics, economics and psychology. Generally, development theory offers a framework for socio-economical growth while this particular theory sets the agenda for human growth. It is also a study of our thought, motivation and behaviour, which further explains the society as a whole. Different perspectives are essential to understand and advance the human development theory and proponents refer to various fields, amongst others, sustainable development, feminism and political economy.

In an interview to the Asia Society (Amartya Sen: A More Human Theory of Development,, the Nobel Laureate puts it concisely:
It (the idea of development that was first conceived in the 1940s) was dominated by the basic vision that poor countries are just low-income countries, and the focus was simply on transcending the problems of underdevelopment through economic growth, increasing GNP and so on. That proved to be a not very good way of thinking about development, which has to be concerned with advancing human well-being and human freedom.

New growth theory has been attempting to study the failure of underdeveloped countries from a few perspectives like that of technological growth. According to the proponents of this theory, the objectives of development can be realised through spreading knowledge or innovation instead of economical entities like labour and capital. They also support government intervention particularly in areas like formulation of policies. This theory, however, becomes unstable from its refusal to take into account of the various social and political perspectives that are essential for making a firm conceptual foundation.

Finally, we have the theory of coordination failure that explains the failure of market through, as the term suggests, a lack of coordination among economical complementarities. In layman term, the lacking arises from the dependence of one investment and its returns on another and its off-putting effects on the investors, who will wait for others to make the first investment. To enhance the coordination the theorists recommend government’s intervention with the aid of an investment scheme. In development economics, underdevelopment is a type of such coordination failure because there is no investment in spite of the benefits while an economy decays in an underdevelopment trap called a low-level equilibrium. This theory might explain the lack of investment in conflict areas like Manipur.

Concluding Remark

Experts have predicted we have transformed from industrial society to that of information. Postdevelopment theorists have also emphasized the significance of people taking part in the development processes. From these two observations it is worthwhile to take into account of those backward areas where information is scarce and people are fighting to save their indigenous cultures. Even the widely publicised Millennium Development Goals are not comprehensive. This suggests there are more room for improvement in the existing theories. 

The case of India’s economic growth in the last three decades or so demonstrates reforms and intervention are essential more than abstract concepts of development albeit theories do provide conceptual understanding and insight. This is where development communication makes its mark as a connection and a catalyst between different stakeholders. Further, as mentioned earlier, Hegel regarded the history of philosophy that it is ‘a necessary development of successive philosophies from one another’—so are the theories of development.

These theories, as a framework, often overlap each other in their ideas and time periods, but we have made a chronological order for convenience. The fact that the most contemporary theories are riddled with contradictions and flaws implies that we can look forward to more radical approaches in the years and decades to come. Yet howsoever revolutionary an approach is, the main objectives should include the establishment of justice and equality with a special consideration for the people and environment—rather than solely focussing on parts like economics, market and technological advancement to build the development ‘whole’.

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