Introduction The definition of “development” has always been a contentious one. Income level is of course one of the most widely accepted measures of development, but most people would agree that development is more than providing higher material standards of living. The most well known in this respect is the UNDP’s human development index (HDI) and its variations, which try to incorporate non-income dimensions of human welfare, such as education, health, and gender equality. HDI and similar measures of development (e.g., the physical quality of life index – a 1970s predecessor of HDI) are useful in pointing out that the possession of material goods alone cannot fulfill our lives – we need self-realization and dignity. The “humanistic” dimension of development emphasized by these indicators is essential in reminding us that material progress is only the ends and not the means of development. There is another dimension to development that used to be central in its definition in the early days of development economics but has become increasingly forgotten: the “production” side of development. Before the rise of neo-liberalism in the late 1970s, there was a general consensus that development is largely about the transformation of the productive structure (and the capabilities that support it) and the resulting transformation of social structure – urbanization, dissolution of the traditional family, changes in gender relationships, rise of labor movement, the advent of the welfare state, and so on. This was mainly, though not exclusively, to be achieved through industrialization. Even though they radically disagreed on how exactly this was to be done, most commentators – ranging from Walt Rostow on the right and the Dependency Theorists on the left – shared the view that development centers around a process of transformation in the productive sphere. Most of us still hold such a view of development at the instinctive level. For example, most people would not classify some oil-rich countries with incomes higher than those of some “developed” countries as “developed.” In refusing to classify these countries as “developed,” we are implicitly saying that achieving a high income through a resource bonanza is not “development” – the high income should be somehow “earned.” At the other extreme, following the
Second World War, Germany’s income level fell to that of Peru or Mexico, but few people would argue that Germany should have been reclassified as a “developing” country, because we know that Germany still had the necessary technologies and organizational capabilities to regain its prewar level of living standards quickly.2 These examples show we implicitly believe that to qualify as “developed,” an economy’s high income should be based on superior knowledge, embodied in technologies and institutions, rather than simple command over resources. However, during the last quarter of a century, at the more formal level, “development” has come to mean something quite different from what it used to mean. As I shall show below, “development” has come to mean poverty reduction, provision of basic needs, individual betterment, and sustenance of existing productive structure – that is, anything but “development” in the traditional sense. In other words, development discourse has turned into Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark! In this chapter, I analyze the use of the term, “development,” in some of today’s key “development” discourses – the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations, the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) of the WTO (World Trade Organization), and the discourse on micro-finance. I will argue that these discourses have a view of “development” that lacks a vision of transformation in productive structures (and the development of social and technological capabilities that are both the causes and the consequences of such transformation). Consequently, they are unable to promote development and can even be anti-developmental. At most, today’s mainstream view of development is that of ersatz development, which relies upon uncoordinated individual initiatives. I conclude by arguing that a discourse on “new developmentalism” should be constructed by reviving the “productionist” concern of the old development economics while paying greater attention to the issues of human development, politics, technological development, institutions, and the environment than was the case in the old days.