Introducing international development management
Introducing international development management

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Introducing international development management

2.9 Section summary and conclusion


  • For analytical purposes, we can categorise development action into steering, enabling and contesting development.

  • Development alongside capitalism can be categorised as steering. Steering development can also be thought of in terms of interventionism.

  • Enabling development strives to provide a framework in which immanent capitalist development can occur in a ruly way.

  • Contesting development generally arises through social movements which create ‘alternative organisations’, and which often ‘scale-up’ local struggles across transnational boundaries.

  • For all three (steering, enabling and contesting) categories of action, some commonalties can be identified even though the actors of development action consist of a hugely diverse range of people and organisations. Thus, despite the variance in the meanings and practice of development, here appears to be convergence in identifying some common global language.

  • All development action is, nevertheless, mediated by context and therefore there is also much divergence in how development is understood and practised.

  • Despite adopting a common language, varied development agents have different agendas and values. Northern agencies continue to dominate and retain control and power through the imposition of conditionalities and drawing up terms of trade. There are many areas of challenge to this dominance, however, that do affect the nature of conditionalities.


We began this section by considering the current global context of huge social and economic changes within which to place questions of development action and practice. To do this, we used the three analytical categories of looking at development in relation to the development of capitalism, i.e. action as steering, enabling and contesting development. In reality, there are complex overlaps between these categories, which means that any analysis of development action has to be holistic.

We have shown that responses to the development of capitalism have varied considerably according to their historical, social and economic contexts. There are, however, generalisations that can be drawn. These are that:

  1. a global trend towards a market-led economy has sharpened the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in both the industrialised rich countries and the economically lesser developed countries;

  2. the role of the state in development has been challenged through the dominance of global market ideologies, and whilst the state continues to hold its position as a primary agent of development, its role has changed;

  3. transformation in other directions, particularly that of new technology, has provided opportunities for people at all levels to participate in development action across transnational boundaries.

People caught up in these changes have responded in several ways. This section has shown how they have either taken on capitalist development by embracing private enterprise; have lost out as markets have opened up the economy and privatised public services; or have attempted to challenge dominant power relations actively (for themselves or on behalf of the global ‘others’). This has meant that a huge number of diverse groups and organisations have converged around various issues that are felt will benefit all. These include ‘common causes’ such as environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, indebtedness of developing countries, human rights and so on. It also would appear that there is a general agreement that development action that takes up these issues should be inclusive and democratic. Therefore terms such as ‘participation’, ‘civil society’ and ‘good governance’ are high on the agenda of highly varied organisations.

But while there is an emerging common language, there is nevertheless considerable divergence in the meanings attributed to ‘participation’, ‘good governance’, ‘civil society’, and to the actual practice of development itself. This divergence reflects the interests, agendas and institutional values of various groups (from NGOs to financial institutions). Negotiations between differing organisations and institutions active in ‘doing’ development take place constantly, and often draw on this shared language. Yet ultimately, the outcome has to be understood within the framework of power relations. There is little doubt that dominant ‘development’ institutions (such as the World Bank, IMF) have faced challenges, even challenges from people who they never expected to contest their agendas (e.g. the Narmada dam movement that gave voices to thousands of poor, illiterate people). Nevertheless conditionality, no matter how gently defined, remains a powerful weapon in shaping prescriptive development action – development as others would like it to happen.

To end, this section has traced some of the ways in which the discourse on public action and policy making for action on development has taken shape over recent years. The concepts and ideas introduced here will also act as starting points toward courses on development management and allow you to reflect on your own practice.


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