Theories of Third World Development

Post-development demands development of theories predicated on the culture and struggles of the people from the Third World countries. Discuss whether or not theories derived from the culture of Third World countries could get rid the problems impacting the universal ideas of development of course, if just how?

To start the debate on if theories derived from the culture of Third World countries as propagated by post-development could be free from the problems impacting the universal theories of development, it is imperative to understand the principles of 'development' and 'post-development'. The following table provides a basic overview in the form of comparison, between the two concepts:





A series of interventions in transition-economies (third world countries) with the purpose of facilitating economic progress and/or increasing lives and livelihoods.

An different to development with an intention in local culture and knowledge, a critical perspective on proven methodical discourses and a solidarity for pluralistic grassroots actions.

Related Concepts

Modernization, Urbanization

Postmodernism, Post-structuralism, Grassroot Movements



Third World Countries

View of the Third World

Needs dire help from the Western world to resolve its problems

Capable of determining answers to its problems

Basis for Critique

  • Reductionism
  • Universalism
  • Ethnocentricity
  • Authoritarianism
  • Homogenizing development and neglecting its positive aspects
  • Romanticizing local communities
  • Legitimizing oppressive traditions

Development has progressively more become an unsettled notion. From the original years of the development time providing a clear arrangement on the necessity for some type of development, despite an array of positions, we have come to ten years where the position of development is becoming difficult to see. What makes development knotty is the tension between the universe of those who study the 3rd World and the universe of those who inhabit this world. Development is touted to be a pervasive cultural discourse with extreme outcomes for the creation of social simple fact in the so-called Third World. This has been largely because of the problems that are associated with common theories of development:

Authoritarian and specs of goal and steps: Development, by virtue of a universal scale on which it could be measured, resulting in the recognition of "developed" and "less developed" (or "underdeveloped" or "increasing") systems, specifies the lifestyle of a particular goal (development itself) and dictates the processes needed to achieve that goal, i. e. economical growth, industrialisation, and modernisation through the copy of capital, technology, and knowledge from the North/Western.

The fact that these theories derive from a definite conception, which is then assumed to be widespread (while overlooking/subordinating other conceptions) they make development authoritarian as they recommend interventions in people's lives that these people themselves may disapprove of.

Ethnocentrism: General development theories entail emulating European Record and are synonymous with Westernization. These ideas provide a ready-made development recipe from the west and at their heart and soul is the theory that economic growth can be stimulated in any country, by carrying out a US/Western european model. This recipe was influenced by behaviorist, positivist and empiricist approaches in the mould of "scientific model" that prevailed in western colleges and Research Centres and assumes that European societies as ideal models and are complete as opposed to other societies of the Third World countries, the "less developed" ones. These theories have been accused for taking a look at Third world countries as second-rate editions of the Europe, because the benchmarks of an good contemporary society are assumed to be both common and equivalent with particular (Western european) standards. It is also thought that colonial tutelage offered way to diffusion of development (development help/projects, etc. ), but maintained the purpose by providing Europe's past method for development as the sole workable one. Quite simply, development is similar to a phoenix rising from the ashes of imperialism.

Decontextualisation and Generalization: Another problem with universalization is the fact that it groups all Third World countries into one category and ignores variations among them in an attempt to overgeneralize. Indians, Kenyans, Mexicans, etc. aren't viewed as being diverse and non-comparable, but as somehow lacking in terms of what has been attained by the advanced countries. It assumes that UNDER-DEVELOPED countries have the same problems associated with too little capital, knowledge, technology, production, institutions, etc. which can be resolved with technocratic solutions, unconcerned with politics, relationships of electric power and conflicts appealing, solutions that are rational and that no one can object to. It also neglects the dissimilarities between the supposed beneficiaries such as farmers and landless labourers, rural and metropolitan poor, women and men, wage labourers and company owners, ruling elites and marginalised categories, etc. Universal development ideas also do not remember that the underdevelopment in the 3rd World is because Western Capitalist Explanation.

Thus, when their starting things and journeys aren't the same, how can the future discourse of the Third World ape the past of the First World? The 'a priori' procedure of development for the growing and underdeveloped make it infeasible as the decision of the course is dependant on circumstances that are no more there. For formulating bankable procedures of upliftment, it is important that these nations be looked at as very different constructions of societal, financial, political, and social structures. Their progress into democratization or economic success will not result from mirroring the histories of the First World but must instead be unique to the needs, civilizations, traditions, and preceding establishments of every individual country.

Exogenous Mother nature: The ideas were produced by a body of so called experts who basically drew off their own private thinking in their job of changing the Third World countries, making it external.

Can a theory or method be forced after people without first participating in a discussion with the subject? If so, is the "product" created from this exercise of value? Can many years of resided experience be erased through a series of strategic planning lessons, or campaigns not rooted in virtually any significant way to the truth of the topic being trained or required to participate in the activity? These are the question that the paradigm of post-development answers in the negative. Theories derived from the culture of Third World countries could be free from the problems impacting the universal theories of development because of the following top features of post development and therefore of these ideas:

Non-authoritarian with flexible goals and techniques: The primary concern of post-development is to look for alternatives to development via an curiosity about culture and local knowledge by campaign of localized, pluralistic grassroots moves and its durability is at its anti-authoritarian sensibility. In addition, it believes that we now have numerous means of living a good life and every modern culture is free to invent its own and involves responses given by a bunch of people to particular problems or immediate instances of vitality. Thus, post development is neither imposing a goal nor a process and distances itself from technocratically pre-defined standards and widespread models. Therefore, the ideas emanating from the 3rd World within the ambit of post development value alterity and anonymity in the engineering of subjectivities, with each contemporary society asserting its to define its own path. These theories allow the themes to utilize their own tools, and also to go alone to not only develop answers, but also its questions.

Cultural Relativism: Since these theories are based on the problems and ethnicities of the people of the 3rd world countries, local culture, artistic aspects and communal dreams are often important concerns. These theories are usually deeply considering the history of the communities and the area they occupy in regional or national contexts. Post-development considers people's self-definitions as a crucial part in its inquiry and will create a new awareness of social difference, which contributes to the breakdown of ethnocentrism and general worth. Therefore, these ideas entail discourses on difference, especially ethnical difference.

Contextualisation: Post-development relates to the presence of the grassroots and includes local contexts. It situates itself within the context of local struggles and the linkages of residents on the globe systems, loaning it relevance and usability to folks of the Third World in their daily lives and problems. It encompasses a plurality of collective celebrities and revolutions at the micro level, with their own spheres of autonomy. The ideas emerging from the 3rd World with applicability to the 3rd World presuppose an sufficient understanding of different social, political and economic constructions of these countries and their respected histories.

Endogenous Nature: Post-development heavily relies on the data of the Third World countries which knowledge occupies an important role in the creation of ideas on their behalf and your choice making techniques. It includes intellectuals from the Third World, alongside grassroots activists.

Post-development counters the issues of universalization of development theories by instating trust in theories predicated on the culture and problems of the folks from the 3rd World countries, considering their needs, wishes, desires, histories, buildings, etc.

An exemplory case of a theory due to indigenous knowledge is presented in Jane C. Horan's (2002) study of indigenous monetary development. Within this, female textile suppliers in the Kingdom of Tonga received money within a 'Women in Development' aid-funded credit program. Though it was expected that the lending options would be used to produce textiles for the local tourist economy, the ladies produced indigenous koloa textiles for the Tongan ceremonial market which, according to Horan, enabled a "greater selection of ideological, religious and material gains including cash" (2002, p. 206). Though "the default rate on the lending options was low, and the women were involved in a Tongan idea of development known as fakalakalaka, the funders and the critics of the plans were either struggling to or would not recognise development taking place" (Horan, 2002, p. 210). The analysis acknowledges what folks are doing vis- -vis what development doctrines expect them to do.

Other situations are indigenous activities from the south of Mexico, the south of Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia, picking up also in Peru because of anti-mining protests. They are social movements where the indigenous aspect is stark, but there is also a dark-colored, Afro-Latin American component in several countries, and also a peasant one displayed by those linked to Via Campesina, a federation of peasant moves who are opposing free trade and the privatisation of seeds.

What one needs to understand is that since development and post-development are in the extreme ends of the range, which means problems of universalization as seen in development aren't observed in the paradigm of post-development because of its highly localized dynamics. However, post-development (thus by expansion the theories propagated by it) has its group of problems, even though it causes us to confront the failures of the development agenda. Critiques of post-development believe that it overstates its case and neglects all the options of positive development interventions, such as techniques of modern medication raising health insurance and life expectancy of individuals, by taking an exceptionally homogenized view of development. Further, it romanticizes local areas and sometimes, legitimizes oppressive customs, and becomes in the same way paternalistic as the chastised development paradigm. It ignores the local forms of oppression and violence and is also accused to be indifferent to the violation of individuals rights. As the movement towards ethnic sensibilities that accompanies post development is a welcome shift, the plea for people'sculture, indigenous culture, local knowledge and culture, may lead if never to ethno-chauvinism, to reification of both culture and locality or people. Furthermore, by propagating pondering local and behaving local, it tends to avoid global constructions of inequality.

Though, the next wave of post-development counters a few of the aforementioned shortcomings by recommending alternatives like the conception of communal solidarity, direct democracy, social movements, indigenous knowledge, etc. and state that the it is not the aim of post-development to offer a normative, new solution, the loopholes aren't still completely plugged and will not be till enough time a viable option to development is suggested by this school of thought. In the lack of a possible solution put for because of it, post-development remains just deconstructive of a preexisting paradigm.

In today's world, what's needed is a middle way, something between development and post-development that can integrate the positives of universalization as well as localization. Till enough time such an way is developed, the decision concerns choosing the minimal evil of the two.


  1. Horan, J. C. (2002) Indigenous wealth and development: micro-credit techniques in Tonga, Asia Pacific Point of view, 43(2), 205-221.
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