Development Theory

While there is no clear definition of the term “development”, the majority of international relations courses I have taken have been spent studying development theories to analyze, critique and understand “development”. When first defining development, researches reached for GDP and economics as the method for determining what countries were considered developed and developing. Currently, the definition of development is altering as authors spend their careers researching a more accurate way to define the concept. One researcher who seriously impacted development theory is Amartya Sen.

Sen focused on the intersection between development and freedom, creating a new discourse that deviated from the economic and industrial based definitions of development. Sen’s work was extremely important for the field of development as the conclusions he presented made development a more intersectional field that highlighted the importance of human rights and social issues in development and that urbanization was not synonymous with development. Unlike numerous other development researches, Sen highlighted the importance of human well being in development and argued that economic development is linked to freedoms. Sen focuses on how societal arrangements, involving many institutions in a particular society, impact freedoms and how a broad view of freedom, that encompasses opportunities, is necessary.

I find an echoing between Sen’s research and what I envision for my capstone project. While I understand the importance of economics in international relations theory, particularly in development, my project is coming from a more humanitarian view of development. I’m using this idea of “overall freedoms to all people” and finding its intersection with the CRPD 8, focusing on raising awareness for people with developmental disabilities. Studying Sen’s Development as Freedom is extremely useful because his focus on opportunities as key to freedom is poignant to Article 8 of the CRPD, focusing on acceptance. My project is planning on focusing on ideologies and how ideologies are impactful to people with developmental disabilities. I feel raising awareness for people around the world with disabilities and promoting acceptance will lead to positive change in societies worldwide. Sen argues that capability deprivation is a better measure of poverty than low income and without awareness, numerous people with disabilities have opportunities stripped away from them. Poor education systems, poor working conditions and a lack of ability for social movement. The more awareness that is raised for people with disabilities, the more societal arrangements might be made for them and as Sen argued, these societal arrangements can lead to more freedoms. In order for a country to be more developed, all people need to have equal opportunities.