Philosophy of Development Practice

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSHS3DP2024

Semester and Year Offered: Semester 1

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr Imran Amin and Prof Anup Dhar

Email of course coordinator:


Course Objectives/Description:

What is 'development'? What is its history? How can it be measured? What is the relationship between growth and development? What indeed is development practice? Given that each society is unique in its own way, the task of making sense of these questions, as also historicizing and denaturalizing development, becomes important for both the grassroots imagination of transformative social action and an ethico-politics of the ‘local’. Taking off from two pre- independence practices of rural reconstruction – one by Gandhi and the other by Tagore - and critical engagements with such practices by Nehru and Ambedkar – this course takes critical stock of post-independence discourse(s) of development and attendant turning points and practices. In the process, the course sets up a dialogue between 'development alternatives' and 'alternatives to development'. Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen and Encountering Development: The making and unmaking of the Third World by Arturo Escobar is thus put to dialogue. The course ends by bringing to conversation Gandhi's economic and philosophical manuscript with Tagore's The Cooperative Principle. Marx's "The Secret of Primitive Accumulation" forms the backdrop of a developmental imagination beyond Capitalo-centrism and Orientalism.

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Capacity to critically analyze developmental paradigms
  2. Capacity to critically reflect on paradigms of developmental practices
  3. Generate new knowledge or theory of developmental practices
  4. Transform extant practices and theories in the developmental sector

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Module 1: Introduction to Development in India: The first module begins by looking at the condition of development in India, its historical roots and trajectories, and the policy followed in its course. In doing so it hopes to reveal the gap between the planned and the actual outcome of development policies and it never ending ‘catching-up’ that lies therein.

Module 2: Introduction to Development Practice: The second module places the causality of the gap and its catching up in the situated and the contextualized practice at the grassroot level. It hopes to expose students to the experience of development as lived by its targets and their subjectivation by its procedural practices.

Module 3: Mainstream Development: The third module critically engages with the mainstream global theories of development from its welfarist Keynesian origins through modernization and dependency into basic needs and its capability and freedom based human incarnations.

Module 4: From Development Alternatives to Alternatives to Development: The fourth module engages with the challenge posed to mainstream development discourse by scholars of post-development orientation. It introduces students to the discourses and practices alternatives to development that has been being the rise of new social movements, especially those with gendered and ecological orientations.

Module 5: The Other Side of Development: Discourses from India: The next module looks at Indian discourses of development, especially those outside the derivative, post colonial, statist development discourse. Taking up alternative models of development and rural reconstruction from Gandhi and Tagore, the module offers alternative models of development.

Module 6: Development beyond Capitalocentrism and Orientalism: Moving beyond the materialistic, catch-up model of hierarchical and teleological development discourse, the final module offers some tentative conceptual and theoretical tools to re-imagine development through practice.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Review Paper: On the genealogy of development discourse (30%)
  • Reflexive Paper: Idea of transformative social praxis (40%)
  • Presentation: On the Experience of (under)Development during first village immersion (30%)

Reading List:

  • Dreze, J and Sen, A. 2013. An Uncertain Glory: Indian and its Contradictions . Allen Lane: London.
  • Sen, S. (1943). Rabindranath Tagore on Rural Reconstruction . Calcutta: Visva Bharati.
  • Sachs, W. (2010). The Development Dictionary: The Guide to Knowledge as Power. Zed Books: London and New York (pp: vi to 23; 38-54).
  • Stiglitz, J. E., Sen, A., & Fitoussi, J. P. (2011). Classical GDP Issues. In Mismeasuring Our Lives: Why GDP Doesn’t Add Up (pp. 23-59). New Delhi: Bookwell Publications.
  • Escobar, A. (1995).Economics and the space of Space of Development: Tales of Growth and Capital. In Encountering development: The making and unmaking of the Third World (pp 55-101). Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
  • Stiglitz, J. E., Sen, A., & Fitoussi, J. P. (2011). Mismeasuring Our Lives: Why GDP doesn’t Add Up. New Delhi: Bookwell Publications (pp. 61-136).
  • Sen, A. (2000). Development as Freedom - New Delhi: Oxford University Press (pp. 13- 110)
  • Escobar, A. (1995). Encountering development: The making and unmaking of the Third World (2012 Ed.). Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
  • Sachs, W. (2010). The Development Dictionary: The Guide to Knowledge as Power. Zed Books: London and New York (pp: 55-110, 127-144, 16 1-194, 212-259).
  • Craven, J. 2011. “International Education and Imperial Penetration, Co-optation and Control” in International Critical Thought – Routledge: London and New York.
  • Escobar, A. “The Invention of Development” in Current History ; Nov 1999; 98, 631; Academic Research Library.
  • Parekh, B. 1997. Gandhi: A Very Short Introduction – OUP: Delhi.
  • Dasgupta, A. K. 1996. Gandhi’s Economic Thought – Routledge: London and New York.
  • Govindu, V. M. and Malghan, D. 2005. “Building a Creative Freedom: J. C. Kumarappa and his Economic Philosophy” in Economic and Political Weekly.
  • Gandhi, M. K. (1947). India of My Dreams . Ahmedabad: Jitendra T Desai, Navajivan Mudralaya.
  • Sen Gupta, K. 2005. The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore – Ashgate: Hampshire and Burlingt. Tagore, R. 1963. The Cooperative Principle – Visva-Bharati.
  • Marx, K. (1976). The Secret of Primitive Accumulation. In Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (pp. 873-895). London: Penguin Books.
  • Gibson-Graham J. K. 2001. "An Ethics of the Local".
  • Berger, M. T. 1994. “The End of the ‘Third World’?” in Third World Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 2.
  • Wyatt, A. 2005. (Re)imagining the Indian (Inter)national Economy” in New Political Economy – Vol. 10, No. 2 – Routledge: London and New York.