Accepted paper:

The social justice agenda in development studies: which approach?


Chris Lyon (Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre)

Paper short abstract:

The idea of social justice appears to be moving into the mainstream of development discourse. How can a critical and rigorously-theorised conception of social justice/injustice avoid the pitfall of critical neutering or co-option, and provide a fresh, normatively grounded perspective on development?

Paper long abstract:

Recently the idea of social justice has followed the well-worn path from the critical margins to the mainstream of development discourse. This mirrors its emergence into general prominence with attention-grabbing global movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, and ever-more astonishing media accounts of wealth inequalities. Social justice is a powerful rhetorical resource, but also a concept subject to a wide array of competing theorisations. Different conceptions would support radically divergent policy choices and modes of practical action. As such, if social justice is to avoid the habitual fate of previously-critical development 'buzzwords', there is a need for conceptual clarity and rigour. This paper outlines the relevance of social justice thinking to development, maps the implications of different approaches, and briefly makes the case for a 'relational' approach as being particularly successful in capturing the range of considerations relevant to thinking about social injustice within a development context.

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