Catholic Social Teaching and Economic Globalization: The Quest for Alternatives

By John Sniegocki | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
DEVELOPMENT THEORY AND PRACTICE:
AN OVERVIEW

The past sixty years have rightly been called “the age of development.”1 For the richer countries development has been viewed as a goal already achieved. For the poorer nations it has been held out as a future promise. This chapter provides a brief history of development thought and practice in the period since World War II. An awareness of this background history will be helpful in understanding and appreciating the views of Catholic Social Teaching on development issues that will be explored in subsequent chapters.


ORIGINS OF THE CONCEPT OF DEVELOPMENT

Tne contemporary notion of development has deep roots in 18th and 19th century discussions of “progress.” The idea of progress, originating mainly in Europe and North America, provided a framework in which the highly disruptive social transformations being brought about by capitalism, industrialization, and urbanization could be interpreted in a positive light.2 Grand claims in fact were made about where these changes were leading. The influential philosopher Condorcet, for example, promised that the transformations that were underway would lead ultimately to “the destruction of inequality… and finally, the real perfecting of mankind.”3 For many persons devotion to progress took on quasi-religious characteristics, becoming a type

1 Wolfgang Sachs, Introduction to The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power, ed. Wolfgang Sachs (London: Zed Books, 1992), 1.

2 For an historical overview of the concept of progress in western thought, see Robert Nisbet, History of the Idea of Progress (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1994).

3 Marquis de Condorcet,”An Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind,” in The Idea of Progress: A Collection of Readings, ed. F. Teggart (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1949), 337.

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