This course explores the major social science theories that have been used to explain the development of the so-called ‘developing world’ since the end of the World War II. The course is divided in five parts.
We will approach the subject by understanding the ever-expanding concept of development itself, and how it has assumed more and more attributes, from economic, social, political, to ecological, gender, and security dimensions. The course will then briefly discuss how, on the basis of these changing definitions, the geographical scope of the developing world has become vague and politically constructed, lacking a clear scientific delimitation. The main part of the course then presents different theoretical explanations of development and underdevelopment, highlighting the specific role of social and political variables. An initial focus of this discussion centers upon the perceived limitations and failures of "grand theorizing" in development studies (modernization theory and dependency theory, i.e. the application of mainstream social science theories to poor countries), and the alleged "impasse" this has created for the development project. In the remaining part, we will discuss some concepts and ideas at the meso-level, which have "filled the gap" since the rise and fall of grand development theory. We will cover the role of state (for development), the relevance of political regime types and institutions, the role of social actors, civil society and social capital in the development discourse. The presentation of theoretical approaches will be linked with an overview of empirically developed indices. On this basis we will discuss the merits of theory-based analysis of development problems.