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7 Dec 2010
September 13, 2010
o The course is about development and democracy the two
dominant prisms through which we view the world
o In the first semester, we look at development:
Refers to processes by which societies develop economically;
agricultural production ! specialization, exchange, and the
market through which most people consume things that are
made by other peoples
o In our economy, many people produce nothing that we actually
consume bankers, lawyers, etc. make the market work (they
dont actually produce anything that anybody consumes); this is
what happens in a so-called “developed” economy
o In general, we consider development to be a good thing; countries
at higher levels of development are wealthier; countries with higher
GNPs are more developed than countries with lower GNPs
o We think of countries as being on a trajectory from being less
developed to more developed this is a positive direction; the
reason it’s positive is because the more developed countries are
o This is the normal logic that accompanies thinking about
development, but there are critics of development
o There are three big concerns about this whole development
Firstly, as societies develop people lose some of their
traditional customs/culture, which may have been tied to
subsistence agriculture; their culture may have been tied to
the land, to the seasons all of this can be lost as people
specialize and move off of the farm and move towards
urbanized areas; they lose a lot of “what it meant” to be them
Secondly, the development model seems to presume that all
countries in the world follow a particular western path of
development; if they dont follow this model (subsistence
agricultural production to market type specialization), then
some countries appear to have “failed”; developed countries
are success stories and underdeveloped countries are, by
definition, failures; this trajectory makes some countries look
like successes and some look like failures; this is one of the
reasons we dont use terms like “first world”, “second world”,
and “third world” anymore it implies that there is a race
and some countries are first, second and third and the third
world is behind the first world; this kind of thinking makes a
lot of people anxious
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Thirdly, the goal of development implies the goal of “wealth
creation”; the way that we measure development is b y
measuring GNP; countries that have higher GNPs are by
definition more developed than countries with low GNPs; the
entire purpose of development is wealth creation these
critics argue that wealth should not be a goal in itself; theres
nothing intrinsically valuable in wealth; we should value only
the “side benefits” that wealth may enable; to the extent that
wealth creates other benefits like health, shelter, access to
food and water, then we should desire it; if these benefits are
correlated to wealth, then we should desire it but wealth in
and of itself is not desirable
o People have other values that have nothing to do with
wealth happiness, family ties
o The language of development places a premium on
wealth creation and it distorts the human moral
structure because it distorts the other values we might
have world peace, environmental protection, etc.
o Mainly, this set of problems has led to a redefinition of our sense of
development. Some people have ignored these critiques, but others
have tried to define and redefine how we measure development
we shouldnt measure GNP alone; to some, development refers to
human well being and not just to GNP
o You have to look at the infant mortality rate, literacy, education, life
expectancy, access to health care, access to safe drinking water
the culmination of these goods that would actually affect human
well-being in a society; you add this to GNP to make richer your
definition of what counts as development
o There are a fair number of countries that have really high levels of
GNP and very bad records of protecting human rights, such as the
United States; a very high genie coefficient (measures the level of
o Some theories will go even further theyre not just going to
include physical well-being, but freedom as well; if the society
does not also secure freedom (freedom of expression, freedom of
religion, freedom from oppression) along with guaranteeing some
minimal access to life, then that country would not be considered
o We can expand the definition of development in these different
directions that will make different things important you either
have to get your constitution in order, or your social regime in
order, or your democratic practices, etc.
o Thin (GNP alone) vs. thick definitions of GNP (packing human well-
being and freedom onto it)
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