Definition

“A student of Development Studies should always remember that every society – say, a village in Chhattisgarh or a municipal ward in Jalandhar – has its own needs and inclinations. If you want to study it or give a sound policy advice that is supposed to cover both the village and municipal ward, the differences between the two locations must be kept in mind. This requires a grasp of the concrete situations as well as the generalities of issues,” ~Professor Amiya Bagchi

“Development Studies is a challenging approach to two things – the historical and highly uneven processes of structural change and socio-economic change in a largely capitalist international context; and the set of policies, institutions, and direct interventions to secure development outcomes by a wide array of agencies,” ~Christopher Cramer

“Economics forms the bedrock of Development Studies, but the latter also incorporates insights from politics and sociology,” ~Pulapre Balakrishnan

Development Studies (DS) is a relatively young field of academic study within social sciences. It is believed that the nomenclature ‘development studies’ was not used until World War II. It became a designated subject between 1960s and 1970s. Many argue that it was born because of decolonization process of 1950s and 1960s as the newly independent countries tried to ‘catch up’ with the industrialized nations. The dominance of ‘economic thinking’ in the early years of Development Studies was, therefore, beyond question.

The context in which DS shaped up as an academic subject was certainly economic. There are some scholars who believe that DS originated in Great Britain as a leftover from the old field of colonial economics (that is, how to run a colony, which is a subject matter that the modern field of Development Economics claims no association with). To put it simply, Development Economics is mostly a hard-core, quantitative enterprise and DS is mostly a theoretical, comprehensive and soul-searching enterprise.

It has become an increasingly inter- and multi-disciplinary subject, encompassing a variety of social scientific fields. In recent years the use of political economy analysis- the application of the analytical techniques of economics- to try and assess and explain political and social factors that either enhance or limit development has become increasingly widespread as a way of explaining the success or failure of reform processes.