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Accepted Paper:

Politics of Development: Balancing act between the mainstream and alternatives  

Author:

Tadashi Hirai (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

By tracing the shifts from MDGs to SDGs and from basic needs to human development, this paper explores the implicit power of the mainstream in past and present alternatives in order to predict future directions in the discourse of development.

Paper long abstract:

As the idea of development evolves, it is subject to both intellectual and technological innovation, while the process remains deeply political. However, the range of innovations does not necessarily change the discourse, and this has resulted in the dominance of the economic growth model over time. Indeed, too radical an alternative approach would be eliminated by the mainstream. The development discourse has evolved through a delicate balancing act between the mainstream and its alternatives.

Environmental protection as an aspect of development has come under the spotlight in recent years, leading to the recommendation for its adoption in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Even so, the environmental perspective plays a supplementary role at best. The strong sustainability model remains too controversial for explicit mention or for incorporation in SDGs. Instead, bland terms such as ‘green economy’ and ‘circular economy’ have proliferated. Before the rise of environmental protection, similar trends could be observed in the context of human-centred development. As history shows, the basic needs approach lost impetus by undervaluing economic growth, while the human development approach seeks to consolidate its role as an alternative by making common cause with the mainstream, as for example in the construction and evolution of the Human Development Index.

By tracing the shifts from Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to SDGs and from basic needs to human development, this paper explores the implicit power of the mainstream in past and present alternatives in order to predict future directions in the discourse of development.

Panel P01b
Paradigm maintenance or shift? Questioning the reinvention of development for the 2020s II