The Interdisciplinary Field of Development
A country’s level of development is often defined in terms of its ability to increase the amount of goods it produces compared to its population. This is referred to as gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. Other measures of development are improvements in a country’s health status, quality of life, and education. Development may also refer to a decrease in poverty, inequality and unemployment.
A common assumption is that the more a country develops, the more rich it will be. However, a growing economy does not necessarily mean that all people in a country will benefit equally from it. Furthermore, some indicators of development are more culturally bound and difficult to apply across cultures.
Development is an interdisciplinary field, which combines the knowledge and research methods of several academic disciplines. The study of development encompasses multiple domains, from physical and neurophysiological processes, to the emergence of social institutions, cognition, and language. Some approaches to development have been influenced by various forms of Marxism and are characterised by dialectical processes, while others adopt a more economic approach that is closer to classical economics.
Other theories of development are less influenced by ideological frameworks and focus on human beings as active participants in their own developmental process. These include Piaget’s constructivist theory of cognitive development and the neo-constructivist theories that follow it, as well as Erikson’s behavioural developmental stages. Another approach to development is that of Amartya Sen, who developed the capability approach that defines human development as a process of enhancing choice and freedom, and emphasises the empowerment of people in their lives.