Approaches to Development: A Sociological Examination

By S Parmawi Haokip

Development and its various synonyms and euphemisms have become a commonplace word which everybody uses and apparently understands. But in academic circles where popular terms are often defined differently and with greater measure of scepticism, the concept remains elusive. Development has been conceptualised as a process of economic growth fostered by industrial investment and a competitive culture of enterprise and profit maximisation. It can be also be defined as liberation from the strictures of colonial and imperial domination in which nations secure the right to self-determination and self-reliance, as a state of welfare in which ordinary people enjoy freedom from want, disease, ignorance, insecurity, exploitation and oppression. This paper seeks to develop three arguments. First, development thinking has not been the single paradigm for which it is often taken, but that all along it has been a heterogeneous set of approaches that has been not only variable over time but highly diverse at any given time. Second, it zeroes in on one particular unresolved dilemma in several forms of development thinking, the disparity and tension between endogenous and exogenous dynamics in development. This, too, may point towards a reconceptualisation of development as a transnational problem. Third, it explores the current tendency to rethink development as a process that is not reserved to ‘developing countries’ but that all societies are developing, as a part of the global process.

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