Conceptualizing Development and Underdevelopment: From Classical Modernization to Contemporary Post-Development Discourse

M. Saiful Islam


Development, as an ideology and practice, has been a matter of much contestation since its inception at the enlightened period. The way development has been understood, explained and practiced has undergone various experiments and directions over the time. Yet, what development is theoretically and what it should be in practice remains as contested and vague. This article is an attempt to examine the trajectory of development from its origin in the classical modernization to the more contemporary neo-liberal and post-development discourses. It is argued that the way development has been propagated by the modernists as economic growth and positive change has been vehemently challenged by the post-modernists on the ground that development is not only hegemonic, authoritative and dependency creating mechanism that routinely fails and but also produces unintended consequences on the lives of the people. Thus, there has been a growing realization that development needs to be rethought in a way that would promote an alternative development or even an alternative to development. Such a shift in perspectives and continuing deliberations on development has given rise to the question whether development has reached an impasse which needs to be pushed forward. By reviewing the existing literature, this article aims at unfolding the dynamic trajectory of development both as theory and practice, and argues that development is and continues to be an interesting and stimulating topic in social sciences given its vibrant engagement with and implications on various stakeholders both at the global and local contexts.

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