chapter  1
21 Pages

The sovereign order

Introduction This chapter examines the global context within which, and partly because of which, the project of international development emerged. It begins in the period after the Second World War because it is only then that this project becomes institutionalized in international politics through the regular provision of aid to developing countries and the establishment of permanent aid agencies. This suggests that there is something particular about international order during this period that explains the emergence of the project of international development. This chapter argues that this is US hegemony. ‘Development’ played an important role in the hegemonic project pursued by the United States after 1945, and there are good reasons for thinking that the project of international development is in important respects an American project. The second aim of the chapter is provide a sketch of international order during this period. Apart from US hegemony, the chapter focuses on the Cold War and superpower competition as the key power-political feature of global politics during this period, which had important implications for the project of international development and for the international relations of developing countries. The chapter then examines the global economy, with a particular focus on the rise and fall of what is known as the ‘golden age’ of capitalism. The changes in the global economy during this period affected all developing countries (and all developed countries too of course) in significant ways. The ‘good times’ of the 1950s and 1960s crucially shaped the way development agencies thought about development, and the end of the ‘golden age’, the extended economic crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s, was a significant turning point in the history of international development. Finally, the chapter examines some of the norms that emerged and shaped international order, with a focus on the connected norms of self-determination, sovereignty and non-intervention, and on the idea of ‘development’ itself as a norm.