Understanding the Meaning of Development

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The term development refers to growth, progress and positive change. It can occur at the community, national or international level and encompasses a wide range of issues from economic growth and poverty reduction to sustainable use of natural resources and good governance.

The broad range of development issues requires the consideration of various objectives that may conflict and compete with each other, such as economic growth, human rights, environmental sustainability and good governance. It is not possible to balance these competing demands in a perfect manner, but the challenge of developing nations is to find a reasonable compromise that achieves optimum development.

A number of assumptions about the nature of development drive researchers’ choices of research questions and methods. These are called meta-theories and include mechanistic (like a machine) and interactionist (like a living system) approaches to development. They also include ideas about whether people are passive and react to external forces or if they choose their own responses. They also assume if there are certain developmental stages that all people must go through in the same order or whether the pathways of development depend on specific experiences and environmental contexts.

The authors of the article suggest that complexity science, which has recently gained more attention from mainstream economists, provides a new perspective on the meaning of development. In their view, the emergence of patterns and behaviors at the individual, community, or national levels is an emergent property of the complex systems in which these events take place.