Continued from Part 1.

Development History

Development practice is not new. It dates back to the European colonies, when colonizers enforced a "civilized," ordered, white, male, Christian ethic. Organized, ongoing development aid followed during the post-colonial period. Development theory, however, came along much later, emerging as a stable, academic field of inquiry only after World War II, when European countries were trying to keep their former colonies at arm's length. Throughout these years, development theory and practice was strongly characterized by the transmission of moral values from industrialized countries to less-industrialized, rural countries.

The development field has always been highly influenced by economic thought, as exemplified by the fact that development has been primarily measured by increases in gross national product (GNP). According to Dennis Rondinelli, during the 1950s and 60s, development intervention assumed that "successful methods, techniques, and ways of solving problems and delivering services in the U.S. or other economically advanced countries would prove equally successful in the developing nations." [1] Therefore, at the very start of development theory, there was a notion of direct transferability, or a "one size fits all" type of development assistance . However, delivering aid was not just a technical matter; it also involved political concerns. For example, during the Cold War, U.S. provision of aid was largely directed to those countries that were, or could come, under Soviet influence.

The 70s were marked by rapid growth of American and European multinational companies in the developing world. While these companies expanded markets and made new goods available, they also exerted predatory competition on indigenous industries. Two theoretical debates emerged in developing countries, especially in Latin America: the dependency theory and the center-periphery theory. For dependency theorists such as Paul Baran, Andre Gunther Frank, and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, developing countries were trapped in a cycle of dependence on international capital in which there was little room to maneuver. The center-periphery (or metropolis-satellite) theory developed by Immanuel Wallerstein, argued that movement within and between the center and the periphery was possible.[2] This theory introduced the concept of a world economy, and said that movement within and between the strata of this economy was regulated by market forces.

Such movement became especially difficult, however, in the 1980s. Due to the financial crisis of this decade, many developing countries could not pay their external debts, and had to adopt economic adjustment measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in order to borrow money. Such measures included cuts in public expenditure, and the development of a more efficient, transparent and accountable state [3]. Though the World Bank recommendation was that "an effective state — not a minimal one — is central to economic and social development," in reality IMF and World Bank requirements have resulted in large cuts in states' size and functions, and little or no increase in accountability and transparency.[4]

During the 90s, the IMF maintained its structural adjustment plan, while the World Bank gained a deeper understanding of other factors that can affect economic performance. Academics such as Nobel laureates Robert Coase (1991), Gary Becker (1992), Douglas North and Robert Fogel (1993), John C. Harsanyi, Reinhard Selten, John F. Nash Jr. (1994), and Amartya Sen (1998) were amongst several authors who focused on transaction costs, property rights, institutions, non-market behavior and welfare economics in their development theories.

In the 90s, this renewed focus on institutions was combined with a series of world summits organized by the United Nations to discuss development. Environment and development was the theme of the 1992 Rio de Janeiro summit. In 1993, a human rights conference took place in Vienna. Cairo hosted a conference on population and development in 1994. Social development was discussed at the Copenhagen 1995 world summit. Gender issues, especially the role of women, were discussed in 1995 in Beijing. The last conference, Habitat-II, took place in Istanbul to discuss urban issues.

Current Development Theory

While much of development thinking and practice has changed, the moral and political dimensions still remain. Critics of current development theory such as Jonathan Crush [5] and Arturo Escobar [6], see development as a set of rational, managerial prescriptions through which industrialized nations have largely imposed their views and models onto the beneficiaries of their aid, forcing, to some extent, a change in the identities of those who have been "benefitted." It is still common for academics and practitioners in developing countries to believe that development is a direct transference of Western values onto non-Western cultures. Organizations such as the World Bank, and USAID are believed to impose expertise and authority, silence alternative voices, promote a dependent path to development, and keep their eyes closed to the power imbalances they create.

However, development is not the only influence on a nation; local political processes also have significant effects. Additionally, the development field helps to overcome human rights abuses, protect the environment and empower women. While the debate about the pros and cons of different approaches to development still rages, the constant critiques have inspired a quest for diversity among development theories.

As was noted earlier, development interventions are intended to move societies from a situation in which they are believed to be worse off, to situations in which they are assumed to be better off. Certainly, there is a great deal of contention on what determines who is "worse" and who is "better." The traditional paradigms of development theory have historically been similar to those of economics. Specifically, the field of Development Economics tries to explain differences in development conditions mostly through macroeconomic factors. A country's GDP has been, for most economists, the major parameter with which to measure development success.

Recently, the contributions of the Nobel laureates of the 1990s, who stressed the political and social dimensions of development, have come under more consideration. Research on development has become multi-disciplinary, embracing policy analysis and starting to focus on the major symptom of failed development, poverty.

Such a multi disciplinary view of development opens an avenue for fresh thinking on the human dimensions of development. The argument for such a view is that development is not an end in itself, but rather a means for achieving better and more equitable living conditions for human beings. Associated with this view, the focus on sustainable development aims at integrating economic, biological, social, cultural, and political dimensions.

Today, all approaches co-exist, and in many instances there is an attempt to reconcile all views of development. There are, certainly, nuances. The two tables below show the approaches to development topics from the World Bank and from the Eldis Gateway to Development, which presents a more academic view of development. The Eldis Gateway tends to emphasize anthropological and sociological approaches, while the World Bank's literature tends to stress the economics of development.

Guy Burgess is a Founder and Co-Director of the University of Colorado Conflict Information Consortium. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology and has been working in the conflict resolution field, as a scholar and a practitioner, since 1979. His primary interests involve the study and management of intractable conflicts, public policy dispute resolution, and the dissemination of conflict resolution knowledge over the Internet. He is one of the primary authors and creators of the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflicts, and is the Co-Director of CRInfo -- the Conflict Resolution Information Source. Dr. Burgess has edited and authored a number of books and articles, the most recent being The Encyclopedia of Conflict Resolution (with Heidi Burgess, ABC-Clio 1999).