How to develop a world of problems

Poverty and Development into the 21st Century. Second Edition
May 26, 2000

This is the revised edition of a book published in 1992. Its main objective is to help readers find ways of understanding, in the broadest possible sense, poverty and development as we move into the 21st century. Ambitiously, it gives development a history of 200 years, paralleling that of industrial capitalism, rather than only 50 years. Chapters start with questions, to which the rest of the chapter provides some sort of answer, and end with a summary; key concepts are highlighted and a boxed discussion of their meaning provided; maps, tables, photographs and cartoons are used to illustrate arguments.

There are five principal sections: on conceptions of poverty and development; on "a world of problems", which concentrates mainly on hunger and famine, diseases, war, population, environmental degradation; on "the great transformation", which looks at colonialism, socialist models of development and the change to capitalism; on understanding contemporary development, that is globalisation, democratisation and good governance, gender relations, technology and wider aspects of culture; and, finally, on the future of development.

The third and fourth sections consider changes such as the end of the cold war, the demise of Soviet-style communism, the shift from simple neo-liberal ideologies in western countries to an enthusiasm for market-driven strategies. These have had effects on and implications for the role of the state and the recognition of various actors in development (the World Bank, th International Monetary Fund, the European Union, bilateral donors, northern non-governmental organisations, grassroots NGOs etc). As the editors put it, "the main debate is no longer between grand theories of social transformation, but about degrees and forms of intervention".

There are a few new things in this second edition. First, Poverty and Development into the 21st Century starts with the explanation of the concepts of poverty and development at a time of so much complex debate on the meaning and measurement of these concepts, especially in the context of the human development report and the world development report. There are also five new chapters, on a world at war, agencies of development, capitalism at the end of the 20th century, life in the cities (urbanisation) and genetic engineering of development (biotechnology). The editors acknowledge that the term third world should ideally be dropped, since it is negative, and it is used less in this edition.

There are also things the book does not include, notably international debt and cancellation; human rights, religion, nationalism and illiteracy in the developing countries; and the impact of information technology on these countries.

The book will be of relevance to those in development studies, sociology, geography, social anthropology, economics and politics. It could be used effectively as a course textbook for undergraduates and, with some selection, as a source of readings and discussion pieces in connection with a higher-level option.

Vandana Desai is lecturer in development geography, Royal Holloway College, London.

Poverty and Development into the 21st Century. Second Edition

Editor - Tim Allen and Alan Thomas
ISBN - 0 19 877626 8
Publisher - Oxford University Press
Price - £24.99
Pages - 572

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