Transformation without Paternalism

Journal of Human Development and Capabilities 17 (3):360-376 (2016)
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Human development is meant to be transformational in that it aims to improve people's lives by enhancing their capabilities. But who does it target: people as they are or the people they will become? This paper argues that the human development approach relies on an understanding of personal identity as dynamic rather than as static collections of preferences, and that this distinguishes human development from conventional approaches to development. Nevertheless, this dynamic understanding of personal identity is presently poorly conceptualized and this has implications for development practice. We identify a danger of paternalism and propose institutionalizing two procedural principles as side constraints on development policies and projects: the principle of free prior informed consent and the principle of democratic development.

Author Profiles

John Davis
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Thomas R. Wells
Leiden University


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