Development Theory

Development Studies emerged in an intellectual and political context in the 1960s and has become an integral part of everyday undertakings around the world. More of a subject than a discipline, Development Studies focus on development and create cross-disciplinary insights into the field. There are many different views of development, such as a long-term process of structural societal transformation and short-to-medium term outcomes of desirable targets. It is important to keep both perspectives in mind when attempting to define development.

Since the overall definition of development is hard to pin down, many organizations use different measurements to assess it. Most measurements of longevity and knowledge are similar in their indicators, usually revolving around life expectancy and literacy. However, the third category used by many organizations to measure development is standard of living, which typically defines each organizations outlook on development. As there is no single measurement of standard of living, the indicators chosen by each organization presents a unique view of development.

Amartya Sen, the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Science, offers a new perspective on development in his book, Development as Freedom. Sen highlights the two-way relationship between development and freedom. Development can extend freedoms and freedoms can further development. Poverty is not simply possessing a low-income, but lacking opportunities because of an absence of income. Therefore, poverty can be viewed as capability deprivation since poverty can adversely affect an individual’s abilities to lead a life they can value.

Persons with disabilities and older adults are at a distinct disadvantage due to their decreased ability to earn income and their need to spend more to achieve the same level of function. Capability deprivation can force people to make decisions others may never have to think about, such as skipping meals to save enough for medical care or transportation. Access to adequate, nutritional food is not only an aspect of one’s standard of living but can also affect longevity. Unfortunately, even in places that are deemed “developed,” certain groups of people lack the same freedoms enjoyed by much of the population. Thus, development is a constant process that seeks to diminish inequalities and overcome existing challenges as well as those that are bound to arise in the future.