Tim Jacoby and Uma Kothari, both from IDPM at the University of Manchester, have edited a special edition of the journal Progress in Development Studies which has just been published. It showcases emerging research from early career colleagues at the Institute.
By Tim Jacoby and Uma Kothari
With the title ‘Bringing Social Theory back into issues of Development’, this special edition is an attempt to respond to the often noted problem that development studies remains poorly theorised – unlike the disciplines (geography, politics, anthropology etc) it draws upon. Instead, studies are often based on agency rather than structure thus when problems arise they are commonly reduced to the conduct of local actors with insufficient reference to the broader geo-political environment. This is frequently underpinned by a simplistic acceptance of a prevailing notion of progress, rendering all change a part of a teleological unfolding of modernity. The very linear character of Development Studies’ foundational premise means that both diachronic and synchronic comparison is rare. This also militates against the prospect of building on previous theoretical work in order to connect contextualised studies with broader, interdisciplinary debates.
The special issue to follow emerges out of the activities of the Social Theory and Development Histories Research Group which Uma and Tim convene within IDPM. The aim of the research group is to think about the significance of social theories to the study of development. More specifically, it explores:
- how we can theorise social change and social relations in the context of development,
- how we can use social theories and historical analyses to interrogate contemporary development narratives, methodology and practice and,
- examine how inequalities are (re)produced and consolidated.
The special issue provides a chance to present a cutting-edge collection of studies that tackle the hitherto under-emphasised objective of bringing social theory into the ways in which we think about development. As such, each contribution offers a critical analysis of what various social theories can contribute to particular areas of development and together demonstrate how using social theory can lead to a better understanding of problems that pertain to developing societies. Each article explores the uses of a particular social theory across a variety of development concerns and geographical settings. Together, the articles address four key sets of questions:
(1) What are the theoretical gaps in mainstream development thinking?
(2) How can and should we theorise development processes, conditions and dynamics?
(3) How can various social theories contribute to examining and understanding a specific development problem?
(4) How can the study of international development effectively combine empirical research with more critical theoretical understandings?
Below is a table of contents. For access to the full papers, please visit the journal’s website here: http://pdj.sagepub.com/content/current
INTRODUCTION: BRINGING SOCIAL THEORY BACK INTO ISSUES OF DEVELOPMENT- TIM JACOBY AND UMA KOTHARI
TOWARDS MIDDLE-RANGE THEORY BUILDING IN DEVELOPMENT RESEARCH: COMPARATIVE (HISTORICAL) INSTITUTIONAL ANALYSIS OF INSTITUTIONAL TRANSPLANTATION- NAHEE KANG
INTERSECTIONALITY, MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT –TANJA BASTIA
ENSURING A POLITICAL SPACE FOR CONFLICT BY APPLYING CHANTAL MOUFFE TO POST-WAR RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT –BRIONY JONES
CONNECTING THE DOTS: LIBERAL PEACE AND POST-CONFLICT VIOLENCE AND CRIME- KIRSTEN HOWARTH
THE ABSENCE OF CLASS: CRITICAL DEVELOPMENT, NGOs AND THE MISUSE OF GRAMSCI’S CONCEPT OF COUNTER-HEGEMONY- JOHN McSWEENEY
LANGUAGE AS A MIDDLE GROUND: USING GRAMMATICAL READING TO ‘FIND’ THEORY IN DEVELOPMENT PRACTICE- RÓISÍN READ
HISTORICIZING THE STATE IN DEVELOPMENT THEORY: MICHAEL MANN’S MODEL OF SOCIAL POWER- JESSICA R. HAWKINS