Development Theories

The topic discussed this week was development and how it is defined, as well as the theoretical and cultural frameworks surrounding the discourse and its implementation. Development is inherently an ambiguous word that has been defined in a multitude of manners. Within our class we have been exploring these definitions through various authors.

The Sumer and Tribe reading provides a critical outlook on how development is defined, by highlighting three-traditional frameworks in which development has been confined to, these frameworks are: Historical, Policy, and Post-Modernist approaches. The first conceptualization is historical which defines development as “the long-term practice of structural change”. The policy framework defines development as “short-to-medium term outcomes of desirable targets”. The postmodernist conceptualization is a critique of how development is viewed in the global north but also how it is a mechanism in which the developed nations control Global South.

On the other hand, we have development defined as freedom by Amartya Sen. His argument is that “development is the advancement of our lives and the freedoms we enjoy” and that wealth is a determinate of the quality of life that one lives. He later correlates the expansion of instrumental freedoms to development. Stating that the expansion of instrumental freedoms such as political, economic facilities, social opportunities etc., contribute to development. What I find interesting is that he places the expansion of these freedoms on individuals and governments. Individuals need to be proactive, and governments need to strengthen and protect human capabilities through institutions. The only way for development can work is for government and citizen work together, which inherently links Sen’s definition of development to democratic regimes.

The most compelling argument is that of Amartya Sen. Sen correlates development to the capacity in which individuals have their own autonomy to make their own decisions but discuss how the human condition affects agency a therefore development. We see this when he discusses poverty as capacity depriving, because it takes into account that poverty deprives people of agency because they are confined within economic boundaries. We see this example within the US and how communities such as African Americans and Latinxs are marginalized economically, socially and politically. Poverty is capacity depriving because it limits what school parents can send their children to, what foods they are able to afford as well as what is made available to them and the environmental conditions people live in.