Development Theory

Development is a concept that lacks a universally accepted definition. Development in terms of countries is defined by Sen as people’s ability to access freedoms of all kinds. Sen’s ideas are based on a theoretical concept of development which includes expanding people’s capabilities and giving them access to tangible freedoms. This means that development is not simply based on economic factors but of social, political, and civil factors that provide people within a country to have freedoms. Increasing freedoms to all people is the basis of inclusive development in which every person has complete access to the freedoms offered by a country.

In a more economical sense, Acemoglu and Robinson claim that development is the inclusivity of economic institutions which allows all people to participate in opportunities. Development has 3 inter- related definitions; long term, short to medium term, and a dominant discourse. Long term development focuses on structural societal change. Short to medium term development utilizes targets and indicators such as the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. Dominant discourse development refers more specifically to western ideals of modernization.

Personally, I am more a believer in Sen’s ideals of development as they are more applicable to the diversity of countries and allow for more inclusivity in terms of who has access to the freedoms that developed countries offer.

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Development Theory and Actors

All nations aspire to develop and yet what is the criteria in deciding which country is developed and which is less developed? What determinants can accelerate development? And why are some countries more developed over others? The answers to these questions lay in the way we understand the concept of development. The theory and concept of development is complex and as discourse shows there is no single definition on what development is, or what specific measurements it implies. According to the book International Development Studies, development has three inter-related definitions: as a long term process focused on processes of structural societal change; as a a short-to-medium term outcome of desirable targets, which is related to evaluative or indicator led policy (MDG); or as a dominant ‘discourse’ of western modernity, which is related to westernized ethnocentric notions. Robinson and Acemoglu argue that the key to development is the inclusivity of economic institutions, which essentially is the combination of the state and the free market in which the state creates incentives, rewards innovation and allows everyone to participate in economic opportunities. Thus, economic success is due to the government becoming accountable and responsive to its population,

However, the theoretical work of Amarty Sen published in his book Development as Freedom has greatly influenced the contemporary concept of development (which is in accordance with other definitions). According to Sen development is a process of expanding capabilities, creating opportunities but mainly it is the process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy.  From his perspective real development cannot be just about increasing basic incomes or GNP, but rather that is one of the determinants of expanding the freedoms enjoyed by the society. Other factors such as social, economic, political and civil rights are also important. Thus, he argues that in the end development is about expanding those freedoms and removing the barriers that prevent expanding these sets of freedom. Health, education, housing, freedom of action and belief are no less important for developing nations as growth GDP. These factors are the key factors for inclusive institutions, alleviating poverty, providing economic opportunities and abolishing repressive regimes- that act as barriers to freedom.