Deconstructing Development Discourse

Buzzwords and Fuzzwords

ISBN 978-185339-706-6

Edited by Andrea Cornwall and Deborah Eade

About the authors
Table of contents
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Writing from diverse locations, contributors critically examine some of the key terms in current development discourse. Why should language matter to those who are doing development? Surely, there are more urgent things to do than sit around mulling over semantics? But language does matter. Whether emptied of their original meaning, essentially vacuous, or hotly contested, the language of development not only shapes our imagined worlds, but also justifies interventions in real people's lives. If development buzzwords conceal ideological differences or sloppy thinking, then the process of constructive deconstruction makes it possible to re-examine what have become catch-all terms like civil society and poverty reduction, or bland aid-agency terms such as partnership or empowerment. Such engagement is far more than a matter of playing word games. The reflections included here raise major questions about how we think about development itself.


"A sparkling addition to the student's tool-kit, and a sobering call for renewed thinking to long-time development thinkers and practitioners."
Gita Sen, Professor, Centre for Public Policy, Indian Institute of Management

"'With a lightness of touch that belies a deadly seriousness of intent, this book is both a useful guide and a powerful antidote to the dangerous oversimplifications of twenty-first century development policy.'"
David Lewis, Professor of Social Policy and Development, London School of Economics and Political Science

"An exciting, fun and deeply challenging book for all engaged in development."
Wendy Harcourt, Editor of Development, Society for International Development

"This book goes a long way towards demonstrating the emptiness of development jargon, unveiling the naked emperor."
Firoze Manji, Editor in Chief, Pambazuka News

"This collection fills the important gap by demystifying the jargon and concepts for practitioners and students of development.'"
Rajesh Tandon, President, PRIA, India

About the authors

Andrea Cornwall is Professor of Anthropology and Development in the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex.

Deborah Eade was Editor-in-Chief of Development in Practice from 1991 to 2010, prior to which she worked for 10 years in Latin America. She is now an independent writer on development and humanitarian issues, based near Geneva.

Table of contents

Deborah Eade

1. Introductory overview
Andrea Cornwall

2. Development as a buzzword
Gilbert Rist

3. Words count
Naomi Alfini and Robert Chambers

4. Poverty reduction
John Toye

5. Social protection
Guy Standing

6. Globalisation
Shalmali Guttal

7. The F-word and the S-word
Cassandra Balchin

8. Participation
Pablo Alejandro Leal

9. Citizenship: a perverse confluence
Evelina Dagnino

10. Taking the power out of empowerment
Srilatha Batliwala

11. Social capital
Ben Fine

12. Reflections on relationships
Miguel Pickard

13. Talking of gender
Ines Smyth

14. Sustainability
Ian Scoones

15. From the right to development to the rights-based approach
Peter Uvin

16. Civil society
Neera Chandhoke

17. Public advocacy and people-centred advocacy
John Samuel

18. NGOs: between buzzwords and social movements
Islah Jad

19. Capacity building
Deborah Eade

20. Harmonisation
Rosalind Eyben

21. 'Country ownership'
Willem H. Buiter

22. Best of practices?
Warren Feek

23. Peacebuilding does not build peace
Tobias Denskus

24. The uncertain relationship between transparency and accountability
Jonathan Fox

25. Corruption
Elizabeth Harrison

26. 'Good governance'
Thandika Mkandawire

27. The discordant voices of security
Robin Luckham

28. Fragile states
Eghosa E. Osaghae

29. 'Knowledge management'
Robin Broad

Deborah Eade


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