The following paper will investigate the term ‘development’ while answering two questions. It will first deal with the definitions and implications of development in order to establish what is meant by development. Secondly, it will aim to answer the question as to how development should be measured.
Development is a term that is still highly contested and can be defined in many ways. Chambers (1997) provides a very simple answer by defining development as a ‘good change’. While being very general and thus applicable to various aspects, it does not say a lot. Thomas (2000, p. 23-25), however, argues that in everyday jargon development can be seen as ‘progress‘, thus it implies “moving towards the fulfilment of a potential”. In the long-term it means “increased living standard, improved health and well-being for all, and the achievement of whatever is regarded as a general good for society at large”. This definition implies that development is relative. Due to the variances between societies, most notably in cultural and social terms, different societies will have differing views regarding what is a general good. An answer to some extent could be provided by definition of UN, which implies that the “basic objective of human development is to enlarge the range of people’s choices to make development more democratic and participatory”. The choices refer to income and employment opportunities, education and health as well as a clean and safe physical environment.
Another aspect of development is the link with the concepts of modernity. According to (Ogborn, 199, p.153), modernity in its broadest sense implies the condition of being modern, new or up-to date. Thus, ‘modernity situates people in time’, which again is relative. In economic terms, however, modernity encompasses industrialisation, urbanisation and the increased use of technology within all sectors of the economy (Willis, 2005, p.2).
Most frequently development is understood in terms of economic growth and is likely to deal with both the issues related to the developing nations, as well as the living standards of humans. In fact, development is still measured at the national scale, i.e. with the help of GDP/GNP measures (McMichael, 2008, p.20). Hence development would mean the increase seen in the total value of the goods and services on record as produced by a country in a given year (Macionis and Plummer, 2008, p.262). In addition, development in economics is concerned with the political and the economic agendas. The assumption underlying the appropriateness of the wealth measures to represent development is that greater wealth also means other benefits, such as improved health, education and general quality of life. However, as Macionis and Plummer (2008, p. 262) point out that some countries may very well become wealthier in total terms, while the inequality within the country could rises, which is actually the case in most countries today. Hence, development in this case would mean improvement of living standards for some while deterioration for others. In addition, there are several other indicators to measure the economic development, such as the Purchasing Power Parity, which includes the total cost of living. However, there are a number of problems attached to these indicators of development: