Politics of development in the current global context is both a fascinating and important ﬁeld, and also one subject to some fundamental challenges. Arguably, the politics of global development is at crossroads. For example, questions about environmental change cut deep at some foundational premises of development as conventionally conceived, including mainstays such as the goal of high mass consumption. Similarly, struggles for indigenous rights, or against race and gender inequalities in their diﬀerent ways, point to the problems and limitations of framing development exclusively, or predominantly in material terms. These struggles in their own ways also challenge the idea that development can be reduced to simplistic assumptions about economic growth and performance. Instead, they draw attention to complicated and unequal social relationships, which people struggle against and negotiate. It is precisely for such reasons that the politics of development make such an exciting and challenging ﬁeld, because such engagements direct us to possibilities and opportunities to reﬂect upon and reframe development theory (ideas about what it is), as well as the relationships through which ‘development’ is practiced and mediated. This volume brings together a collection of essays that speak to these
broader concerns through their respective engagement with diﬀerent issues and aspects in development. In this introduction, I provide some background to the politics of development aimed at contextualizing the essays. I follow this with a brief introduction of individual essays, and conclude with some thoughts on how we might keep the challenges and opportunities in development ﬁrmly in view in our engagements with the politics of social change. The political relations of development have a long and fraught history.
They encompass colonialism and imperial rule together with their legacies, struggles for decolonization and rights, aspirations about material progress, and demands for cultural recognition and alternative political institutions and approaches. The political relations of development are far more complicated than conventionally represented in public and academic discourses, which typically focus on questions of economic growth, competitiveness, and levels of industrialization and consumption. Of course, the latter focus is mostly reﬂective of neo-liberal development, and is itself highly problematic because of its implications for social and economic equity. But what is emphasized here is that a more historical and expansive understanding of relations of development is important for realizing what lies behind the crises and contradictions the world is facing at the present conjunction (cf. Saurin 1996).