Chapter 2 looks back to the origins of the UNDP’s discourse. It analyses the genealogy of the human development discourse and shows that it reproduces the essentialist assumptions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries’ evolutionist sociology – i.e., Herbert Spencer and Talcott Parsons’ understanding of human beings, social change and history. The chapter draws on Clifford Geertz’s critique of their work to show that the structure of (and the logics within) the UNDP’s discourse limit its ability to apprehend the complexity of current societies. The UNDP tackles the 21st-century global society using the sociological assumptions of the colonial, Victorian 19th century.