Beyond colonialism: continuity, change and the modern development project

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The history of ideas about development has its roots in mercantilist globalisation, imperialism and colonial ethnography. Progress was framed in the Enlightenment dichotomy of traditional versus modern, and our thinking about transitions from agrarian societies was informed by the Russian debates over extracting rural surpluses to underpin industrial growth. Development as a replication of Western transitions was subsequently critiqued with the “dependista” argument that advanced capitalist countries were “underdeveloping” poorer, ex-colonial ones. Such modes of production and structural analyses still provided alibis for elite misbehaviour, however. Recent post-modern development theory emphasises actor-oriented explanations and heralds a pluralisation of cosmologies, challenging hegemonic Western conceptions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-21
Number of pages19
JournalCanadian Journal of Development Studies
Issue number1
Early online date21 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • agrarian transition
  • colonialism
  • dependency
  • Development theory
  • United Kingdom


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