Theories and Histories of Development

Histories and theories of development across contexts, tracing changes in the meaning of the practice of development.

Ideas, concepts and theories of development have undergone many changes in response to empirical failures, emerging realities, and new ethical and theoretical considerations. Development as an ethical-theoretical framework for human wellbeing traversed many continents, where it has shaped and reshaped itself through a dialectic of successes and failures, modification and adaptations, as well as by a combination of Sangharsh and Nirman by people and their collectives. In the course of its journey, development has embraced many fundamental shifts such as a shift from people being viewed as objects of development to becoming subjects of development; from human wellbeing seen in isolation to becoming intricately connected to ecological health; from the monopoly of one social and knowledge system to plurality of social and knowledge systems as constitutive of human and social resilience, etc.

This course aims at enabling students to form a historically informed understanding of development as an enterprise of social change, animated by pluralities of theories and histories. In addition, the students should be able to appreciate that development theories are historically constructed, where imaginations are constantly formed through new research, social movements and alternate practices.

Starting with an examination of the idea and origins of development, this course will focus on key theoretical approaches to, and debates on, development and examine their analysis of the causes and dynamics of social, economic and political change. In doing so, the course will enable students to develop a critical understanding of the discourse of progress that animates the idea of development, examine the construction of the category of the Third World,’ and query the desirability of development. In addition, the course will also consider important challenges to development from anti-colonial struggle, various social movements, and assess the role of international institutions in managing development and its tensions. Students will be introduced to perspectives on development from not only the developed’ world but also theorisations and experiences of development from across the Global South, including that from India.

The structure of the course will draw from a range of theoretical perspectives including, but not limited to, liberal, Marxist and post-structuralist analyses of development. The topics will cover the rise of modern capitalism, colonialism, modernisation theory and its critiques, and the role of national states and international institutions, globalisation, the turn towards participatory development, feminist, Gandhian, and sustainability perspectives on development, and notions and practices of development that fuel alternative visions of the future.