Poverty and Development

Key Concepts
  • north-south divide
  • neocolonialism
  • development
  • corruption
Syllabus Outline

Knowledge of the nature and extent of global poverty, and a critical awareness of the effectiveness of attempts to reduce poverty through programmes of development, international aid and good governance.

Scheme of Work

Poverty and the North-South divide — knowledge of the nature, causes and extent of global poverty; awareness of conflicting arguments in the poverty debate. Many regard the relationship between the global South and the North as still being one of dependency. The South is dependent on the North for foreign direct investment, manufactured goods, skills and technology, and developing countries are forced to sell primary products such as coffee or cocoa at prices which do not reflect their true value. International aid is given in order to obtain political concessions and financial institutions from the North provide highly conditional loans or use debt to force states to open their economies to trade and multinational firms.

Neocolonialism — understanding needed of the impact of international financial institutions in developing countries and awareness of the neo-colonialism debate; analysis of the development debate, e.g. trade versus aid. Colonialism involved political and legal domination, economic exploitation and racial and cultural inequality. Inequality and exploitation are themes which also apply to neocolonialism, which describes the continued domination of the former colonies by the global North.

Corruption — understanding of the role of governance in promoting or hindering development. Bad governance typically results for example, in limited growth and economic stagnation. However, it is argued that corruption is merely the oil necessary to “lubricate the squeaky wheel”.

Content Explanation and Advice

Theories of Poverty and Development

Nature of poverty - absolute and relative poverty; monetary definitions of poverty (e.g. 1 dollar a day) vs capacity/opportunity-based definitions of poverty (human development (UN’s Human Development Index), human security, human rights), etc.

Theories of development - ‘orthodox’ theory of development as modernization (‘development as growth’; economic liberalism; virtues of free market and free trade; linear process of development from ‘traditional’ to ‘advanced’ societies); internal obstacles to growth (backward culture that discourages enterprise; autocratic rule), etc); ‘alternative’ theories of development (‘development as freedom’; ‘bottom-up’ development; views from global South, etc).

Trends in Global Poverty and Inequality

North-South divide – from Three-Worlds model to North-South divide; trends in global inequality since 1970's (fragmentation of the global South; emerging economies; sub-Saharan Africa as the Fourth World); decline in between-country inequality and increase in within-country inequality; impact of global economic crisis on the global South.

Implications of globalization for poverty and equality – arguments that globalization reduces poverty and narrows inequality (provides inwards investment; TNC bring benefits (jobs, higher wages, new technology, training and skills development; career opportunities, etc): economic restructuring and prospect of export-led growth, etc). Arguments against globalization (TNCs interested in cheap labour and have no long-term commitments; domestic demand ignored in chase for cash crops and export markets, etc).

Promoting Development

‘Orthodox’ or liberal strategies for promoting growth – impact of the World Bank and the IMF on development and poverty-reduction; ‘structural adjustment’ programmes and their impact on the developing world (the ‘Washington consensus’ and its implications for the world’s poor); degree to which the World Bank and IMF have responded to criticism; the radical critique of ‘orthodox’ development (external obstacles to development; biases within the global economy and the institutions of global economic governance, etc.

Aid and development – campaigns to increase international aid (work of NGOs and anti-poverty movement; Millennium Development Goals; G8 Gleneagles agreement, etc); arguments in favour of international aid (humanitarian relief; infrastructural project build economic capacity; counters dependency, etc; arguments against international aid (creates dependency; corruption and oppressive government prevents aid getting to the poor; donor self-interest, etc).

Debt relief and ‘fair’ trade – nature of debt crisis of 1980s; significance of debt relief (progress made in cancelling debt; arguments for and against debt relief); idea of ‘fair’ trade and differences between ‘fair’ trade and free trade (critique of impact of WTO). (Note: essay questions will not be set just on debt or on fair trade.)