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Poverty and Development into the 21st century – book review

March 9, 2010

I teach a course on what MBA students need to know about international non-profits. It’s not a development theory course, but  they do need to know some of the basics of development theory, the history of development, how the development community got to where we are, and where we’re headed. This is by far the best introduction I’ve found. Published by Oxford University Press, it is the core textbook for the Open University’s Masters level course on Development Management.

The book is divided into five sections:
1. Conceptions of poverty and development, which deals with conceptual models of what we think is going on when we talk about these concepts;
2. A world of problems, which is a whistle-stop tour of the major threats to development;
3. The great transformation, a history of pre-capitalism, colonialism, ‘development’, socialism and what the authors call ‘late capitalism’;
4. Understanding contemporary development, dealing with globalization, democracies, governance issues, gender, urbanization, technology and culture and their impact on development;
5. The future of development, a largely speculative chapter that builds on the current trends to talk about live issues like the role of genetic modification, ethnicity etc.

It would be a happy thing if all of the staff of international development organizations could be persuaded to read this book, a happier thing still if all of the people who engaged as project participants with them did as well. It is well written, engaging and thought-provoking and touches on most of the important strains of though and viewpoints that continue to shape development, but perhaps more importantly it brings to the surface and challenges strains of thought and ideas that are so embedded in our culture and ways of doing things that we don’t even recognize them as forms of thought. It’s one of the few books that I really keep on coming back to even after I have re-read it.
If you appreciate this blog, buying this book through one of these links to Amazon or Powell’s Books helps me support this site.

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