What is development?

In Lori Keleher & Stacy Kosko (eds.), Ethics, agency and democracy in global development. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 49-74 (2019)
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This chapter examines the relation of the Human Development or Capability Approach to liberal political theory. If development is enhancement of capabilities, then this chapter adds that development is human and social: development includes (1) the creation of value as a social process that is (2) a dialectical product of people in their relations. Specifically: (1) The place of the individual within political theory must be revised if the political subject is, as Carol Gould argues, an “individual-in-relations” rather than an autonomous individual agent. (2) New possibilities for valuation are also relational: value is created dialectically along with those possibilities through processes that may be modeled on Denis Goulet’s account of dialectical recognition. These axiological claims hold importance for the place of democratic participation in just politics and development. Building upon David Crocker’s work, this chapter argues that just politics may require a participative approach that is undercut by Martha Nussbaum’s suggestion that a list of central capabilities should guide the drafting of national constitutions. The assimilation of the indigenous concept sumak kawsay to the ideal of buen vivir within Ecuador’s constitution is illustrative, suggesting that prior specification (a list) may limit and distort the dialectical generation of new capabilities.

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Eric Palmer
Allegheny College


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