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This article was written prior to the financial global downturn of late 2008 and early 2009.

Why do poverty, inequality, stagnation, oppression, conflict and environmental calamity plague some nations while other nations do so much better? Economist Roland Hoksbergen, geographer Janel Curry and political scientist Tracy Kuperus review and assess some of the main contemporary social science theories that answer these questions, especially the theories that emphasize economic, political, cultural and geographic factors. The authors critique these explanations from a Christian perspective, arguing that they are seriously limited in their explanatory and prescriptive power due to inadequate assumptions and beliefs about the human person, the character of community, our relationship to the natural world and the overall meaning of human development. Presenting creation care and peace building as two development arenas in which Christians have made strong contributions, the authors encourage Christians to listen to, learn from and join the contemporary conversation on development. Mr. Hoksbergen is Professor of Economics. Ms. Curry is Professor of Geography and holds the Byker Chair in Christian Perspectives on Political, Social, and Economic Thought. Ms. Kuperus is Adjunct Professor of International Development. All are affiliated with Calvin College.

No question is more important for our time than what brings about human flourishing in a global community. Globalizations of all types, economic, information, governance, health, environment and culture combine like never before to raise the hope of progress for everyone at the same time that they threaten us with starvation, continuous war and environmental meltdown. Can these forces be reined and tamed? Can our diverse human family work together well enough to create structures and ways of life that benefit everyone? Is there a path leading toward the development of all peoples everywhere? In today’s globalizing world, there is a growing urgency to these questions. The answer to all of them must be yes, and the way ahead must be found.

As social scientists, the authors of this review are impressed with the amount of recent work addressing these questions, the wide diversity of perspectives, the wealth of theoretical richness and the presence of fundamental disagreements among the social scientists who study these matters. Social scientists are trained to look for causal chains and recent contributions to the international development debate dutifully explore the underlying causal importance of economic, political, cultural and geographic/environmental factors explaining why some nations are developing and others lag. Getting the explanation right is absolutely essential if our strategies for ending poverty and generating development are to have any chance of success.

As Christian social scientists, we are also aware that much contemporary social science is hindered by its failure to integrate faith adequately into its theories or study it adequately in real life. It is thus natural for us to ask what we should make of the vastly different theories that are currently in vogue. What do we find attractive, what problematic? How do our understandings of human nature and human responsibility, the character of human community, our relationship to the environment and the overall purpose of human development inform an assessment of these theories? And what contributions to the debate do we have to offer?

Our review is divided into two main parts. The first and primary focus is a review of some of the prominent contemporary social science-based explanations of underdevelopment and development. On the basis of some basic Christian understandings of humanity and the world, the second part assesses some of today’s influential development theories and marks a path for how to devise improved theories and practices. Creation care and peace building are presented as illuminating examples of work that is already being done.

Contemporary Theories on International Development: A Sample

“It’s the Economy, Stupid:” Policies and Institutions for a Strong Economy

This James Carville quote from the 1992 presidential campaign captures well the post-WWII mood about development. Viewed as the silver bullet of development in that era, economic growth was seen as synonymous with development and economists had the field of development almost all to themselves. Non-economists, like David McClelland, Samuel Huntington and Seymour Martin Lipset also oriented their analyses toward discovering the factors that contributed to economic growth. After realizing that a simple infusion of capital did not bring about the expected growth, scholars looked to government policies, which are the rules and guidelines that regulate economic activity, like foreign trade, budget or agricultural policies. When it became obvious that the policies thought to be the right ones were not working either, scholars started looking at the institutions that created and enforced the policies.

Through all this, mainstream economists continue to believe that wisely regulated private markets, both local and global, are necessary elements of thriving economies. But they have learned also that establishing such markets locally and then integrating with the world economy is a complex enterprise fraught with pit-falls. On the one hand, essential markets, for example in finance, do not simply arise spontaneously or naturally self-regulate when the government does nothing. On the other hand, heavy state intervention smothers the private sector through over-regulation or corruption. Thus, economists today are searching for the proper role for government, one that respects the advantages of the private market, but which also recognizes that markets need a government institutional structure that generates and enforces well-designed policies.

There has been much experience with failure. From WWII through the 1980s, the temptation was toward too much state control. As Jeffrey Sachs says, state-led models of development, in both second and third world versions, “did not make economic sense, and they both collapsed under a pile of foreign debt.”1 It was not until the 1980s that this conclusion was shared widely. Unsustainable debts, caused by a toxic combination of government mismanagement and Cold War politics, forced nations around the world to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which took the lead in encouraging and/or pressuring debt-ridden nations to enact a whole gamut of liberalizing policies. These adjustment policies coalesced gradually into what became known as the “Washington Consensus,” a set of ten policy measures designed to help debt-ridden, state-run economies transition to viable market economies. These measures included privatizing state-owned enterprises, liberalizing markets in foreign exchange, capital and trade, maintaining fiscal discipline and deregulating business.

Unfortunately, the spread of these policies around the globe did not pave a smooth road to economic health. Privatization in Russia led to the rise of a mafia-like economic oligarchy. In Latin America, serious declines in social well-being led to a populist backlash against neoliberal reforms. Along with many others, Sachs and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz put much of the blame on the IMF because it prescribed virtually the same packages of reforms indiscriminately for South Korea, Ethiopia and Bolivia. Stiglitz attributes the IMF’s one-size-fits-all model to its overly simple theoretical models, perfunctory research, the failure to consider the impacts of its policies on the poor and a general lack of accountability that together have allowed the IMF to impose rather than negotiate.2 Unhappy with the IMF’s uniform reform package, Sachs calls for a differential diagnosis and appropriate treatment regimens in each country.

Neither Sachs nor Stiglitz is anti-market, for both support the underlying vi-ion of market based, globally integrated economies. What both find troubling are the too simple ideological responses to practical problems. As Stiglitz says, “the problem is not with globalization, but with how it has been managed,”3 a point he develops in his follow-up book, Making Globalization Work.4 Both argue that transition policies must be applied with great care, at the right time and in the right doses. Sachs would treat hurting countries like medical patients, diagnosing root causes and then applying treatments that are monitored, evaluated and, if need be, changed as the country responds. Stiglitz would pay much more attention to whathe calls “sequencing and pacing.” For example, nations should not force “liberalization before safety nets [are] put in place,” or “privatization before there [are] adequate competition and regulatory frameworks.”5

Like Sachs and Stiglitz, most economists are persuaded by evidence showing that, on average, integrating into the global marketplace is a requirement for economic prosperity. Jagdish Bhagwati, a spirited defender of free international trade, argues that the poorest countries and regions of the world today tend to be the least globally integrated. Recent experiences in both China and India bear this out. As these two nations have liberalized and integrated into global markets, their economies have grown and poverty has declined rapidly. Inside each country too, the regions farthest away and least integrated tend to be those that have advanced the least.6 Access to foreign capital, opening up to trade and selling in foreign markets have all contributed to increasing wealth and declining poverty. Bhagwati argues that many of the fears about globalization are severely overblown or simply unfounded. Claims that globalization promotes environmental destruction, spreads poverty, and increases unemployment while lowering wages and labor standards are, he says, misconstrued, ill-informed and often just plain wrong, at least if the full range of evidence is considered.

Unfortunately, joining the global marketplace may not be that easy for some countries, notably those in sub-Saharan Africa, even if they do establish a strong institutional foundation and implement sound policies. That is because of what isknown as “cluster theory,” the idea that businesses congregate in regions where other businesses are located already. Paul Collier reports that global capital is now headed toward India and China. As long as business opportunities remain strong there, which will likely be another decade or more, it will be difficult for African nations to attract the investment necessary to get their economies growing.7

Still, and this is a crucial point, none of the economists cited above supports completely free markets. Too many well-known causes of serious market failure exist, like externalities, public goods, unequal power, information asymmetries, moral hazard, adverse selection, collective action issues and the like. The Asian financial crisis is a case in point. Most analyses of the crisis tell a story of poorly regulated financial markets and unequal power that led to harmful speculative bubbles.8 The quest is for a policy framework that facilitates market processes while preventing them from spinning out of control at the same time. The search for the right policy mix is thus more complex than simply deciding whether the market or the state should manage the economy. The issue is managing it well. Efforts to understand the difference between good policies and poor ones, and why poor policies so often prevail have led economists to a study of the institutional context in which policies are produced, implemented, enforced and adjusted.

One influential voice on the importance of good institutions is Hernando DeSoto, who first gained notoriety by contrasting the oppressive nature of the formal, legal economy in Peru with the dynamism and vitality of the informal economy.9 DeSoto shows how poorly-run and corrupt institutions suppress economic activity and keep people poor. He also highlights the incredible economic energy waiting to be unleashed among the poor masses, which leads him to emphasize the importance of clear and defensible property rights, of which the poor are so often deprived. So important are property rights and the institutional support structures that define and defend them that he wrote a second book about how the poor own vast amounts of capital resources, but are not able to leverage them into investment. Most of these properties are not legally inscribed, which means that they are not respected institutionally; as a result, they are essentially dead capital.10 Properly defining and defending property rights, along with nurturing institutions that can convert such property value into investment capital, are huge steps along the road to prosperity.

Another major voice on the importance of good institutional foundations is Mancur Olson.11 Like few others, Olson takes on the challenge of understanding the relationship between private markets and political power, for it is in the political arena that government policies are created and enforced. To foster long-term prosperity, Olson stresses the importance of establishing and nurturing what he calls “socially contrived markets,” which lower long-term risk and allow for long-term investment. Such markets will only exist where there is “a legal system and political order that enforces contracts, protects property rights, carries out mortgage agreements, provides for limited liability corporations, and facilitates a lasting and widely used capital market.”12 These are markets that allow people to plan for the long term, for example in finance or insurance contracts, and thus make decisions with confidence that contracts will be honored and enforced.

Olson knows what policies contribute to growth, but he is also aware that people with power often abuse it. Olson sees a world filled with special interest groups that vie for the power to set policies that work to their own advantage. Thisis why dictatorship is so common throughout history and why democratic governance is so hard to establish and maintain. In DeSoto’s Peru, for example, governing authorities may know perfectly well how important property rights are for the poor, but their own interests are not served by establishing such rights.

It is the reality of such power that leads both Stiglitz and Bhagwati to argue that globalizing markets must address the power structure. After explaining to doubters that the poor really do benefit from globalization, Bhagwati also laments that poor people, small farmers, workers and environmentally concerned citizens have little voice and influence in global institutions like the WTO and the IMF. Stiglitz strikes the same chord in showing that the voices heard at IMF decision-making tables are those of the banking and financial communities. According to Stiglitz, it is no wonder that IMF programs always seem to put the interests of the financial community over the interests of the poor.

Is there a solution to the problem of power? Just as Olson explains how a world populated by self-interested people leads naturally to institutions and policies that favor the powerful, he explains also that the only sure way to build more broad-based, publicly oriented institutions is to develop countervailing powers that can provide the necessary checks and balances on all actors in the system and thus ensure accountability. Within countries, this means working toward the political and economic empowerment of a broad range of actors, including the poor. Consistent with Olson’s logic, both Bhagwati and Stiglitz argue for greater representation of poor nations and peoples in global governance forums like the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO. In reference to the IMF, Stiglitz says that “the mind-set of an institution is inevitably linked to whom it is directly accountable. Voting rights matter, and who has a seat at the table – even with limited voting rights –matters. It determines whose voices get heard.”13 Though there continues to be a need for much study and discussion of what sort of institutions actually do work best, it is becoming ever clearer, even to mainstream economists, that these must be undergirded by broad-based, truly empowered participation and the sense of ownership that arises from it.

A Well-Governed State is the Key

Political scientists welcome such economics-based explanations that recognize the importance of institutions and political power. For too long, political scientists argue, policymakers blindly supported “Washington Consensus” economic policies as the linchpin of development. As states in the Global South embraced economic liberalization and reduced the size of the state without building or maintaining state capacity, it became clear that developing country states were often weaker than they would have been in liberalization’s absence. Such weakened states themselves contributed to anemic growth rates and the continuation of economic and social poverty.14

Beginning in the 1990s a remarkable consensus emerged among many political analysts and neoliberal economic reformers that economic development wouldnot happen without “good governance.” Politics had to be taken seriously, for sound political institutions and democratic empowerment provided the foundation for economic policies that contributed to growth. Thus, mainstream political theorists speak of the importance of state capacity for development. State capacity refers to the ability of the state

to formulate and carry out policies and enact laws; to administer efficiently and with a minimum of bureaucracy; to control graft, corruption, and bribery; to maintain a high level of transparency and accountability in government institutions; and most important, to enforce laws.15

Sufficient state capacity allows governments to provide a nurturing environment for economic growth, political freedom and healthy state-society relations.

From this perspective, it becomes apparent that many developing countries, from Sri Lanka to Colombia to Angola, suffer from inadequate state capacity. Basic levels of governance, from creating and implementing economic development policies to providing security from criminal violence, are insufficient. Thus emerges a weak state characterized by corruption, violence, economic unpredictability, neo-patrimonialism, and an inability to address local problems. One cannot hope for wise and balanced economic policies when the state is too weak to implement and enforce them.

Political scientists generally agree that weak states are problematic, yet they disagree on the question of why states in the Global South are weak. A common explanation, acknowledged widely among Africanists, focuses on political culture and misplaced forms of sovereignty.16 In an oft-quoted article, Robert Jackson and Carl Rosberg point to the dearth of political institutionalization in Africa due to the widespread practice of personal rule.

Personal rule is a distinctive type of political system in which the rivalries and struggles of powerful and willful men, rather than impersonal institutions, ideologies, public policies, or class interests, are fundamental in shaping political life.17

Jackson and Rosberg argue that personalistic politics is embedded deeply in Africa’s political culture. Although the ideal may be a rational-legal state with well-defined boundaries and procedures, the reality is arbitrary, elitist rule within an autocratic state. Jackson and Rosberg do not address the overall impact of personalistic rule per se, but they make it clear that broad-based development is nearly impossible to achieve in an environment where corruption and clientelism are the norm.

Christopher Clapham extends Jackson and Rosberg’s argument by addressing misplaced forms of sovereignty as experienced among Africa’s weakest states. The main question he asks is, “How have such states managed to survive?”18 His answer to that question rests on the distinction between juridical statehood, which African states possess, and empirical statehood, which oftentimes they do not. Juridical statehood bestows legitimacy on a state to the extent that it is recognized as sovereign within the international community. In Africa, however, often juridical states are shadow states; they cannot meet the demands of empirical statehood that require them to control their territories and meet basic citizen demands.19 Juridical statehood has led African leaders to manipulate both the domestic and external environment to maintain their hold on power. Lacking a pre-colonial state tradition, these political leaders compensate for their state’s weak social base through a combination of neo-patrimonialism and anti-democratic decision-making. Under such leadership the state weakens continually and the possibilities for development continually decline.20

Although mainstream accounts of why weak states exist in the Global South offer important insights, they are criticized for adopting over-generalized assumptions. Few would deny that patron-client relations hold sway in many parts of the Global South, and to understand the development enterprise it is imperative to grasp the reality of robust forms of informal social interaction. But to insist that all African states or all developing countries suffer from a destitute political culture and neo-patrimonialism is overreaching. More helpful would be an analysis of successful developmental states, like Botswana and Costa Rica, which have traditions of both neo-patrimonial relationships and workable institutional structures. To acknowledge that formal institutions in some developing countries can and do carry out their responsibilities reasonably well, or that formal (or semi-formal) institutions coexist favorably with informal social interactions, suggests a more nuanced picture than assuming a priori that pervasive patron-client relations will doom developmental prospects.

Scholars on the philosophical left also take issue with mainstream accounts of colonialism’s impact on the creation of weak states, accounts which they see as too superficial and too absolving of Western influence. Claude Ake, for example, points to the unique nature of colonialism in Africa as compared with Latin America and Asia. Colonial rule was unusually statist, coercive, and arbitrary in Africa. Colonial rule modeled the struggle for and maintenance of power, and political elites at independence maintained this trajectory with access to wealth as the only guarantor of their political longevity. Development for the masses was secondary or marginalized. The development agenda received little more than lip service when political elites adopted Western economic models that shored up their own hegemonic rule and deepened their nations’ economic dependency at the same time.21

In contrast to Ake’s structuralist argument, Mahmood Mamdani offers a synthesis of structuralist and post-structuralist theoretical frameworks in his examination of the state and democracy in Africa.22 Like Ake, Mamdani argues that colonial political history, rather than a neo-patrimonial political culture, accounts for the lack of political development in Africa. Much of the blame for South Africa’s and Uganda’s political woes, and Africa’s more generally, Mamdani argues, lies in the colonial tradition of indirect rule that eradicated arguably accountable pre-colonial forms of rule and instead produced a deleterious divide between town (direct despotism) and country (decentralized despotism). Citizenship and loyalty to political structures were not granted universally; authoritarian elites and autocratic structures were common place; and a commitment to the common good was lacking. The post-colonial state inherited the structural deficiencies of colonial rule. If democratization (and development more broadly) is ever to be achieved, not only do the gaps between rural and urban areas and between ethnically-oriented and civil society-based politics have to be bridged, but special attention has to be given to power dynamics within the local sector such that power-seeking elites are held at bay.

Post-structural political scientists argue that solutions for political development must go beyond piecemeal remedies such as the introduction of multi-party democracy or an increase in institutional accountability, important as they may be. Instead, countries in the Global South should adopt political development based on strategies that involve the reduction of urban, elite bias, the detribalization of local power structures and an increased reliance on participative indigenous communities, all of which reduce the coercive power of the central state. Those arguing from a mainstream perspective fear that such proposals downplay the seduction of patron-client relations that derail any attempt at decentralizing power; still, the more contemporary accounts of the state in the Global South are willing to critique notions of the hegemonic state and to examine the murky, blurred boundaries of state and society, the external and internal, and identity and culture to name a few.

Maybe It All Boils Down to Culture

Among the most emotionally charged explanations for wealth and poverty is that some cultures are more favorable to economic progress than others. Among the purveyors of this is Max Weber, whose linking of Calvinism with the rise of capitalism is still cited frequently and debated hotly. Today, the cultural explanation for development and underdevelopment is associated mostly with Lawrence Harrison, who draws heavily on Weber’s analysis. Harrison’s gradual acceptance of the cultural thesis came through extensive experience in development work throughout Latin America.23 Harrison argues that

values, beliefs, and attitudes are a key but neglected factor in understanding the evolution of societies and that the neglect of cultural factors may go a long way toward explaining the agonizingly slow progress toward democratic governance, social justice, and prosperity in so many countries.24

In Harrison’s view, progress in such basic areas as life, health, liberty, prosperity, education and justice, depends on the adoption of democratic capitalist ways of life, which depends in turn on a society’s culture.

Harrison identifies twenty-five cultural factors that make societies either prone to progress or resistant to it.25 These include religious orientations, such as favorable or non-favorable attitudes toward material pursuits, values, such as how flexible a society’s ethical code is, economic behavior, such as whether people have entrepreneurial inclinations and social behavior, such as the radius of trust. Societies that value competition instead of fearing it as a threat to equality are more likely to progress, as are those that focus on success in this world rather than place in the next. If progress is to come about in poor countries, then it is cultural change that will lead the way.

Two other contemporary scholars who assign key roles to culture are Francis Fukuyama and Robert Putnam, both of whom have focused on the extent to which social relations promote group cooperation, civil society, good governance, trust and productive economic activity. Fukuyama emphasizes interpersonal trust as a key cultural aspect, arguing that

one of the most important lessons we can learn from an examination of economic life is that a nation’s well-being, as well as its ability to compete, is conditioned by a single, pervasive cultural characteristic: the level of trust inherent in society.26

In a similar vein, Putnam shows that the cultural predilection to work together cooperatively in civic groups is a major wellspring of democratic governance and economic well-being.27 Together, Fukuyama and Putnam argue that cultures that foster trusting working relationships outside of narrow family interests, referred to by Fukuyama as “weak ties” and by Putnam as “bridging capital,” are likely to establish successful democratic capitalist societies.

Such provocative views generate a good deal of controversy. Jeffrey Sachs, Hernando De Soto and Amartya Sen, for example, all identify themselves as broad supporters of democratic capitalism, yet are visceral opponents of the cultural thesis. Sachs says that typically, cultures follow economic change rather than lead it. He says too that culture-based explanations “are usually made on the basis of prejudice rather than measurable evidence.”28 Responding to Harrison’s emphasis on child-rearing, Sachs points out that children are taught the value of hard work more consistently in Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania than they are in the United States.29 De Soto is not convinced either, arguing that efforts

to explain why capitalism fails outside the West remain mired in a mass of unexamined and largely untestable assumptions labeled “culture,” whose main effect is to allow too many of those who live in the privileged enclaves of this world to enjoy feeling superior.30

It is not that culture is irrelevant to human development, but such a stark view of the relationship leads to some troublesome implications. Like De Soto, Sen argues that a focus on whether cultures are “good or bad” fosters prejudicial attitudes, sometimes leading to a “blame the victim” mentality that can cause great harm. English responses to Irish famines in the 19th century, for example, were thought by the British to be the result of Irish cultural deficiencies, which, if true, meant that direct assistance would only exacerbate the problem. What the Irish really needed were civilizing influences, a cultural makeover. Thousands died. By contrast, the British saw economic downturns in England as the unavoidable consequences of natural disasters, certainly not as a consequence of bad culture. Fast-forward to the present day and one finds Catholic Ireland’s and Hindu India’s economies growing much faster than Protestant England’s. Like India and Ireland, today China boasts of one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Did their cultures change? Or was something else at work 31

Far to the political and philosophical left of any of the above-mentioned scholars is the post-development school, with leaders like anthropologist Arturo Escobar, who argues in a postmodern vein that the discourse dominating development thought and practice today is of a Western origin that embeds the superiority of its cultural orientations in everything it does and says.32 When the international development discourse emanates from rich country governments, universities, NGOs and multilateral organizations like the World Bank, all dominated by the institutions of Western and/or Northern culture, is it any surprise that its democratic capitalist ways of life and thought are privileged over others? When international economic, political and social institutions are structured on the basis of the powerful democratic capitalist countries, is it any wonder that other cultures fail to compete successfully? In diametrical opposition to Harrison, who believes Western-led modernization is the key to Third World salvation, Escobar believes it will only bring destruction, for in disrespecting and ultimately undercutting local cultures, current modernization strategies result in the loss of identity, meaning systems and control. There is in post-development a strong environmental orientation as well, for often people are dispossessed of their property and their livelihoods to make way for dams, agro-export products and mass production techniques that wreak ecological havoc and destroy traditional ways of life at the same time. Modernizers like Harrison might think these to be progressive developments, but for Escobar they lead to domination, dispossession, violence, cultural chaos and poverty.

Unlike Harrison, whose prescription is to criticize local culture and to enact policies to bring people into the modern world, Escobar exalts local culture, insisting on local solutions, discovered and implemented through locally developed institutions, and understood in terms of local languages and ways of life. Thus, Escobar and the post-development movement is one of the main theoretical supports to the contemporary localization movement, of which David Korten is among the most prominent supporters.33

Between these two extremes are scholars who have staked out middle ground that attempts to be respectful of culture while also allowing that it might need to change. Denis Goulet was among the first development scholars to search for away out of what he termed “The Cruel Choice,” which forced cultures outside the Western mainstream to choose between keeping their local cultural traditions and staying poor or opting to join modernizing trends and losing their identity and sense of meaning.34 His solution was to work within cultures and to find the “latent dynamisms” that allowed cultural groups to respond constructively to the challenges of modernization. His approach anticipates the views of anthropologist Mary Douglas, who thinks the question of which cultures are “better” is misguided and dangerous.35 Harrison’s practice of evaluating which religious traditions are more prone to progress, for example, is the wrong way to approach the cultural question. Instead, she promotes a theory that sees every culture as a mixture of four tendencies; the hierarchical, the entrepreneurial, the dissenting and the apathetic. Three of these play crucial roles in the maintenance, protection and growth of cultures. Hierarchical types, often government and religious leaders, want to keep traditions as they are and thus ensure social stability. Entrepreneurs, often from the world of business, are change agents who test the boundaries of their cultures by trying out and promoting new ways of doing things. Dissenters are typically idealists and visionaries who provide checks and balances on both groups. The fourth tendency, the apathetic, arises out of practices and patterns of life that marginalize whole groups of people or isolate them from the circles of power and decision-making. As the size of the apathetic group grows, so too does cultural distress. In many societies where poverty is prevalent, a study of the interaction of these four groups reveals much about who holds power, how it is used and how whole groups are consigned to poverty. The analysis is not so much about whether a culture is good or bad as a whole, but about the way power is held and used by the different groups within the culture.

Another intermediate position, known as the “Capabilities Approach,” is offered by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen. The Capabilities Approach takes human freedom as basic and respects culture by insisting on the legitimacy and inclusion of every voice. It allows the people themselves to evaluate their own cultural institutions and ways of life.36 The Capabilities Approach assesses whether people actually have the capabilities and social conditions to be able to make informed choices about their own development path. Sen is aware too that often culture-based arguments are used to defend oppressive systems. He says this has been the purpose of authoritarian leaders in Asia who rationalize staying in power with the “Asian Values” argument. He believes free and capable people, within their own cultural milieu, should be the ones to decide how their cultures should be changed as well as how their societies will be governed.

Geographical/Environmental Explanations

Theories of development that incorporate the environment fall into two major camps—deterministic theories that see the environment as the primary causal factor in determining a nation’s development, and more environmentally inclusive, interactionist theories that privilege the local. Contemporary works that fall within the more environmentally determinist end of the spectrum are those of David Landes and Jared Diamond.37 In explaining developmental differences, these approaches tend to have a meta-narrative embedded in them, taking a broad, inclusive view of “environment” that can be used to paint a broad brush explanation. Similar to Harrison, Landes claims that culture is the first among equals, but he amends this by arguing nevertheless that the most successful societies, when it comes to material development, generally have been in the temperate zones.38 Ultimately, he sees culture as mediated through environment and climate in particular. Tropical scourges, like schistosomiasis and the tsetse fly’s sleeping sickness are adduced to support underlying environmental causes. Thus Landes argues that Europe has been more progressive than other civilizations and that the superiority of Europe’s natural environment is a major part of the explanation. Fine-grained contextualization is generally lacking in the effort of such works to give an overarching explanation that fits all places and times. Explanations of cultural adaptations to ecosystems, what is referred to as “indigenous knowledge,” are missing, and colonial impacts on such adaptations are downplayed.39

Evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond argues that the natural environment, unmediated by culture, explains all the main trends in human history and accounts for Europe’s rise and triumph. His basic premise is that “environment molds history.”40 Thus the main factors that led to differential economic development are the original biological and geographic distribution of grains and large mammals available for domestication, the related rise of agricultural systems, and the resulting comparative advantage. Technological evolution is also determined by environmental factors, like the development of more intensive food production, barriers to the diffusion of technology, and human population size.41 Technology developed fastest in areas of productive agricultural regions with large populations (both necessitating the transition to intensive food production and providing many more potential inventors).42 Diamond puts the emphasis clearly on such environmental factors rather than, say, on culture deficiencies of the peoples of the developing world.

In another recent effort to highlight environmental causes of development, John Gallup and Jeffrey Sachs correlate broad geographic factors, like large climate regions, length of coastlines, the amount of navigable waterways, population density and population growth, with income levels.43 Differences in productivity of temperate versus tropical agriculture, or endemic health conditions are attributed to underlying differences in climate. Transportation costs, a major determinant of economic possibilities, are measured by distance from coastlines and accessibility of hinterland from coastline by navigable rivers.44 Gallup and Sachs use these correlations to build models that predict levels of economic development and to recommend how environmental obstacles might be overcome, for example in roadbuilding or a global effort to fight malaria.

A major alternative to such deterministic approaches to understanding the relationship between the environment and development is known as “political ecology,” an intellectual tradition arising primarily out of the field of geography,45 which has a strong subfield known as “the human-land tradition.” In contrast tothe previously-discussed works, political ecologists have taken pains largely to de-emphasize meta-narrative theory in favor of empirical work. Most books in the field are thus collections of in-depth case studies of particular places. As the name suggests, a key theme that shapes political ecology is the reality of unequal power relationships that are reflected in economic power and the ability of developed nations to impact developing nations at a variety of levels. Among the consequences of this power imbalance in the developing world are environmental degradation and economic systems dependent on natural resource exploitation.

One of the most prolific contemporary scholars on political ecology and the developing world is Karl Zimmerer. Zimmerer’s goal is the integration or synthesis of political and ecological processes. Political ecology distinguished itself from cultural ecology by its multi-scalar approach to the analysis of environment and society.46 In Zimmerer and Thomas Bassett, case studies are brought together around two themes—social-environmental interactions and the political ecology of scale.47 The former theme arises out of a critical realism that accepts the environment as having agency in its own right, as well as being mediated through human society. The latter theme sees diverse environmental processes as interacting with social processes, creating mutual relationships at a variety of scales.48 This approach leads to huge differences when compared with those in search of a meta-narrative. Rather than assuming and/or searching for a meta-narrative, the focus is on expressions of geographic difference that result from the biogeophysical and social characteristics that create varied environments in their mutual relationships. Forces of globalization play a role in their explanations, as a functional integrator of these geographically different places.49

Typical of this approach is Zimmerer ’s and Kenneth Young’s book of case studies that analyze issues of environmental management and economic development with an overarching concern for discovering sustainable relationships between humans and nature.50 A more radical end of the political ecology spectrum is represented in another collection of case studies by Richard Peet and Michael Watts, who draw on post structuralism’s concern with knowledge, power, and discourse—what do local groups know and practice with respect to their local environment? This approach regards indigenous technical knowledge highly and emphasizes the relationship of a people’s discourse to nature and oppressed groups.51

Much of the contemporary work in political ecology was spawned by the work of Piers Blaikie.52 Though his major work was done in the 1980s, he established a new generation of research that draws on multiple theories and moves toward a complex understanding of how power relations mediate human-environmental interactions.53 This complexity has meant that political ecology explanations have not had the same cachet as have the one-directional meta-narratives of environmental determinism. Political ecologists see environmental degradation as the result of underdevelopment, a symptom of underdevelopment, and a cause of underdevelopment.54 There is no one directional causation at work, for environmental problems interact organically with development problems in general. All problems are multi-dimensional, multi-scalar and multi-directional. Blaikie compares this approach to structural approaches, in which reality is seen as empirically verifiable with objective facts, whereas political ecology sees an interactive reality that is socially constructed and variable. Structuralists gain knowledge through building models of society with causal connections whereas interactionists describe accounts of actors’ perceptions. Thus, structuralists use methodologies built on models and stable hypotheses whereas political ecologists use hypotheses with limited applications to other places and times. Finally, structuralists see human behavior as deriving from one’s structural location in society, whereas political ecologists see actors as choosing how to act within the context of their reflections, capability and knowledge.55

Another group of writers, aligned closely to political ecology, emphasizes human agency within the realm of the management of natural resources. Scholars working from this perspective, like Fikret Berkes and Carl Folke, attempt to understand

how the local social system has developed management practices based on ecological knowledge for dealing with the dynamics of the ecosystem(s) in which is it located; and social mechanisms behind these management practices.56

Berkes and Folke take a systems approach that includes feedback controls and linkages among social and natural systems and that allows for adaptation as well. Human and ecological systems are not treated as separate entities. The ways people organize and develop functional institutions, like property rights regimes, have a great impact on natural systems, and natural systems provide feedback that lead people to change and adapt. The ability of people to adapt appropriately is known as “resilience.” As with political ecology, local knowledge and the way it is used to adapt to changing ecological realities is fundamental, and case studies with particular applications are preferred to meta-narrative. The major difference is the direct focus on how people adapt and change in response to changes in their natural surroundings.

At a global level, this approach is now used to analyze the threat of global climate change as it emphasizes human resilience and adaptation in the face of change.57 Human responses to environmental change is a major theme of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond’s follow-up book to Guns, Germs and Steel, which studies not so much why some societies progressed, but why others have collapsed.58 Unlike his first book, which cast a deterministic mold over human development everywhere, this book shows how human choices and their ability to adapt their institutions and ways of life play a major role in determining whether a society collapses or responds appropriately to change and survives. Yet in spite of this nod toward human agency, Diamond’s new analysis is still heavy with meta-narrative and environmental determinism. Ultimately, heargues, there are five sets of key factors that play into a society’s development or decline: environmental damage, climate change, hostile neighbors, friendly trade partners, and society’s responses to its environmental problems.59 How a society responds to environmental opportunities and threats will determine ultimately whether it succeeds or fails. This is as true at a local community level as it is for the global village as a whole.

Christian Perspectives, Critiques and Contributions: The Road Ahead

Christian scholars and practitioners have been involved in thinking about and working in development too, especially at the non-governmental organization level, though no unique and widely accepted Christian theoretical perspective on development has yet arisen. Still, there is a striking degree of similarity across Christian traditions on some basic and important points, and these common orientations can be used to assess contemporary theories.60 As Nicholas Wolterstorff explains in his powerful little book, Reason Within the Bounds of Religion,61 assessing theories on the basis of what he calls our “control beliefs” is the first step. Such a critical assessment then provides a basis for devising better theories, which is of course the second step.

Four control beliefs that are shared broadly across the main Christian traditions and are particularly relevant to development theory are our basic understandings of the human person, the character of community, our relationship to the natural world, and the overall meaning of human development. Among the most basic beliefs is the Christian view of the human person as created in the image of God. To begin with, this means that people have a fundamental dignity and worth, but it means further that humans are inherently reflective, creative and involved agents responsible for the task of stewarding the world entrusted to us. Humans are created to be responsible decision-makers charged with loving, learning, discerning and acting in accordance with God’s will. Furthermore, humans are made to live with and to relate to each other in community in a network of mutual responsibility. Well-functioning communities are characterized by such relationally embedded frameworks as peace and justice, shalom or the common good. Such communities require a commitment to servanthood and solidarity. In our fallen world, where pain, suffering and poverty abound, God directs the attention of people of means, whether of wealth, power or other capabilities, toward the well-being of the poor, summed up by the well-known phrase from Catholic Social Teaching, “preferential option for the poor.”

For Christians, human development itself generally is understood broadly with ideas like advancing the Kingdom of God, liberating humanity or realizing shalom. The concept of “transformation,” meaning the process through which a broken world becomes increasingly like the one God intended for his people and his world, has caught on recently, especially after Bryant Myers popularized the term “transformational development.” In all these formulations, human development is about the transformation that occurs as we participate with God in the redemptive tasks of being peacemakers, working for justice, reconciling the separated, healing the wounded and repairing the broken. For Myers, much of this comes down to our sense of identity as we recognize and overcome what he calls our “marred identities” and replace them with our true identities. As we grow in our understanding of our true identities, we grow in our ability to restore our broken relationships. As prominent social capital theorist Michael Woolcock remarks, development is defined by getting the social relations right and thus bringing glory to God.62 For Christians, development is not just about the poor, as if the people in rich countries are developed already. It is about the rich too, and especially about how the rich and the poor live together. Where there is brokenness, like material poverty, every-one is implicated and everyone is underdeveloped. If, for example, rich people think protecting their wealth behind walls in gated communities is more important than working to build a community in which all are included, that is evidence of their own moral impoverishment and underdevelopment, as well as reinforcement of broken and conflict-ridden communities.

On the basis of these widely shared Christian foundations, a rather profound critique of contemporary development theories comes readily into view.

Strengths and Shortcomings of Today’s Development Theories

On the positive side, what these theories offer is a variety of important in-sights into particular aspects of life. It is helpful to learn about the contributions to human well-being of economic markets and what kind of policies, cultural orientations and governance structures contribute to alleviating poverty and making markets work more effectively. In this day and age, when the limits of the natural environment seem to weigh so heavily on the possibilities that lie before us, it is likewise important to explore the relationship of the natural world to the way we live. And yet today’s prominent theories of development, useful and insightful as they are, seem plagued by shortcomings that necessarily limit their usefulness.

For many of today’s theories these weaknesses arise from their reliance on modernizationist views that understand the central purpose of development to be “having more,” measured typically by some variant of economic growth. They depend heavily on human abilities to understand the world scientifically and to build technologies that leverage the resources and forces of nature to expand productive powers. This may have made a good deal of sense in a world wracked with poverty, widespread disease and low life expectancies, especially when natural resources were so abundant. And it continues to be helpful in parts of world still mired in poverty. But such views and theories lose much of their persuasive power when some people today have too much for their own good, when environmental limits press in against us, when global inequality is a bigger problem than localized poverty and when people the world over struggle to find meaning in their lives. In spite of these new realities, contemporary theories continue to treat economic policies and institutions, governance structures and strategies, cultural patterns and the natural environment as instruments in the service of expanding the human ability to produce and have more: more stuff, more freedom, more years, more control. Christians understand that “having” is an important part of the good life, but this is not an unrestricted license. We must also ask “What is the stuff we have being used for?” and “What else besides having more is important?” It is on such questions that many contemporary theories fail to deliver.

Contemporary development theories also tend to be inhabited by shadowy human beings who are only dimly aware of their own incompleteness. Many contemporary theories include no particular ethic of human behavior, nothing for humans to strive to become, no clear sense of right and wrong. Typically humans are assumed to be either so inherently self-interested (as in the case of mainstream economic theories) that the possibility of a virtuous life is difficult even to discuss, or embedded so deterministically in the forces of nature that they have no say about who they are. They are simply products of their environment. These limitations are found in both traditional and dependency version of modernization theories as well as in environmentally deterministic theories. Either way, the parameters of human choice are seriously circumscribed. Such theories offer no guidelines for proper stewardship, responsibility or virtue. People live in community either because they have no choice, community living being an evolutionary adaptation, or because it is a choice that serves the well-being of self-interested individuals. The ability of such theories to address the full scope and depth of broken relationships in need of restoration is remarkably weak.

There is nothing very earth shattering or especially new about these critiques, but we must take them seriously, for they are central to the Christian task of knowing how to assess extant theories and to identify the issues that need to be addressed in our efforts to devise theories that both explain better and provide better guidance for engaging in the promotion of human development.

New Directions: Christian Contributions to Theory and Practice

As Wolterstorff says in Reason Within the Bounds of Religion,63 assessing theory is only half of the Christian scholar’s responsibility. We need also to be constructive by devising theories and practices that take account of our basic understandings of the world. In a world dominated since the Enlightenment by a secularizing spirit, this is an especially difficult task. But it is one Christians must take up with resolve, as Bryant Myers charged at a 2008 conference on Transformational Development. After noting the scarcity of Christian scholarship aimed at building theories of development that integrate basic Christian control beliefs, he encouraged Christian scholars “to engage the secular development world with confidence and to find a place at the table.”64

This is not to say that Christians have been entirely absent from the field, for Christians have been deeply involved in community development, with Myers addressing primarily this arena in Walking With the Poor. Many Christians have also been involved in other practical areas of development work, like micro enterprise development and disaster response and preparedness. Not at all to diminish the value of other work that is being done, we would like to highlight two areas of development thought and work in which Christians have been particularly effective and active: Creation-Care and peace and reconciliation work.

Creation-Care, an environmental movement arising out of the Christian community, has viewed from its inception environmental stewardship as inseparable from issues of justice, equity, and concern for the poor. The Creation-Care perspective views the relationship between humanity and the natural world as intertwined in the sense that all creation is dependent upon God. All creatures are of value in and of themselves, and all are dependent on each other for their well-being. Any suffering in creation, whether of humanity or the rest of nature, is the result of human sin—they are linked 65 This has made high consumption in wealthy countries a central issue, because it affects both the physical environment and the poor in the developing world. In this perspective, development is seen as

the restoration of that created goodness. And it is a goodness which includes both God’s earth and human worlds, in all their darkness and oppression. God calls us to work toward the Sabbath in which both earth and world rejoice before the Creation.66

The vision that drives the movement is best described as the vision of shalom and Sabbath rest—the cosmos is at peace with its creator when humans are at peace with each other, with the nonhuman world, and with God. Thus, human poverty is seen as both a cause and a consequence of environmental degradation. And while people have unique responsibilities—to care for the creation—they are shaped by the same processes and embedded in the same systems that sustain other cretures. The suffering of humans is thus inseparable from the suffering of the rest of creation.

The presence of the kingdom of God is marked not only by renewed fellowship with God, but also by renewed harmony and justice between people, and by renewed harmony and justice between people and the rest of the created world.67

Theologian Colin Gunton, working out of this theological tradition, goes so far as to say that it is wrong to abstract humans from their social context, just as it is wrong to abstract the environment from its inhabitants. He argues that such abstraction empties the world of its personal meaning because humans have a deep desire to be connected to each other and to the earth.68

Such understandings have led Christians to approach population growth from a different angle than many environmental groups, which emphasize a direct link between population growth in the developing world and environmental destruction, often evidencing evaluative norms that favor the natural environment over humanity. Christians, on the other hand, prefer a holistic, integrated perspective and thus are drawn to questions of distributive justice and over-consumption in wealthy nations.69

The issue of climate change provides another window into how the Christian worldview integrates Creation-Care, justice, and concern for the developing world. The Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), for example, has been instrumental in developing the Evangelical Climate Initiative. EEN was behind the WWJD (What Would Jesus Drive) campaign, believes that damaging God’s world is an offense against God, and by accepting the biblical call to “love your neighbor as yourself,” emphasizes the impact of climate change on the poorest nations and people.70

A second major Christian contribution to the theory and practice of development is the academic and practical emphasis on peacebuilding. Peacebuilding encompasses a broad range of activities from conflict resolution to conflict management as well as the creation of stable institutions in societies emerging from conflict.71 In recent years Christian scholars and development leaders have become increasingly appreciative of the idea of religious peacebuilding and of the historical contributions that the Mennonite tradition has offered to both its theory and practice. John Paul Lederach, for example, one of the leading Mennonite scholars and practitioners in the field of conflict resolution, offers a holistic approach to peacemaking that moves away from top-down, state centered diplomatic endeavors to a multifaceted approach that rests on mid-level and grassroots leaders. These mid-level and grassroots leaders are assumed to be more familiar than national and international players with local culture and with a community’s power relations. Because these local leaders are first-hand witnesses of the social and political hatreds that engender conflict, they are also more effective at resolving conflict and building peace. From the platform of the grassroots, where they practice the techniques and methods of conflict resolution and thereby nurture the trust of the community, they are able to reach out to and work with leaders at regional and national levels.72

In general, scholars informed by Christian perspectives within the peace-building field argue that Christians can be effective peacemakers if they gain first-hand knowledge of the conflict, possess some political expertise, and are motivated by a long-term vision that involves understanding how conflict can be transformed toward a sustainable and just peace for all.73 In the spirit of humility and vulnerability, Christian peacemakers wrestle not with “how to get the power which is necessary to impose a Christian peace,” but rather with “how can we relate the needs of the people, especially the poor and the victims, to their aspiration to a just peace?”74

Effective Christian peacebuilding can take many forms. One of the most compelling, if not controversial, examples in a post-conflict situation is South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Religious leadership and the Judeo-Christian theology of reconciliation shaped the TRC profoundly and led to its strengths and weaknesses. Critics of the TRC argued that the TRC promoted stability over justice, and that its culture of impunity only enhanced the victims’ suffering, while supporters argued that the TRC’s conception of justice was informed by the biblical notion of restorative justice. Restorative justice, in Russel Botman’s words, involves “a meeting of human beings who are hurt, degraded and angry but willing to reach out to an element of mercy and grace in the human spirit.”75 Restorative justice tries to reintegrate the perpetrators into society as much as heal the victims’ wounds. It is about narrative, the restoration of human dignity, community building, and reconciliation.

South Africa’s bold experiment in transitional justice…challenges the conventional wisdom that presumes…the prosecution of criminal wrong doing. Rather than demanding legal retribution, the South Africa paradigm calls for healing and restoration.76

Still, critics of South Africa’s TRC abound, arguing that since the TRC did not demand repentance, reconciliation was an impossibility. Despite the flaws and limitations of truth and reconciliation processes like the TRC, Christian peacebuilders have agreed generally that they can be worthwhile instruments to build accountability, healing, and nation building in post-conflict societies.


Contemporary development theories have arisen and been developed largely independent of Christian scholarly influence. It should be no surprise then that Christian scholars have a hard time finding a home within one of these theoretical structures. Still, these theories contain much wisdom and Christian development scholars should engage them and learn from them, for they provide helpful insights into the ways the economic, political, cultural and environmental parts of our lives interact. All the issues discussed above, from economic efficiency and growth, to failed states and the growth of democracy, to the value of cultural patterns, to our interaction with the environment contribute greatly to our understanding of human development and how to build a world in which God’s children and the rest of His creation can flourish. From a Christian point of view, the great weakness of these theories is their inability to put together the pieces in an altogether coherent, fully grounded story.

We conclude this review of the contemporary conversation on international development by calling on Christians to stick with the conversation, learning from secular theorists who have insights into the human condition and the problems that face us, but also contributing consciously on the basis of our fuller knowledge of the nature of the world, why God has placed us here and of the incredible possibilities for authentic development with which he has endowed his world and his people. As Christian scholars, we are responsible for this, because we are in this together and the world needs to hear from us.77

Cite this article
Roland Hoksbergen, Janel Curry and Tracy Kuperus, “International Development: Christian Reflections on Today’s Competing Theories”, Christian Scholar’s Review, 39:1 , 11-35


  1. Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time (New York: PenguinPress, 2005), 48. Some people have made much of what has become known as the Sachs-Easterly debate, which gained steam when economist William Easterly’s book, The WhiteMan’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good(New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), rebutted Sachs’ optimistic views on foreign aid.But while they differ in their analyses of the role of aid and how to provide it, they differ littleif at all in their mutual respect for a market-based economy.
  2. Joseph E. Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents (New York: W.W. Norton, 2002).
  3. Ibid., 214.
  4. Joseph E. Stiglitz, Making Globalization Work (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006)
  5. Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents, 73.
  6. Jagdish Bhagwati, In Defense of Globalization (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004). Thesame story is also true for Mexico. The 2006 World Bank Report notes that household welfarein the regions closer to the United States, and more affected by the provisions of NAFTA, hasrisen significantly more than in more distant regions. See World Development Report 2006:Equity and Development (Washington, DC: Oxford University Press, 2005), 15.
  7. 8Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be DoneAbout It (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). See especially chapter 6.
  8. See, for example, Paul Blustein, And the Money Kept Rolling In… (And Out) (New York: Per-seus, 2005). The Bhagwati and Stiglitz books cited here contain similar accounts of the Asiancrisis.
  9. Hernando DeSoto, The Other Path: The Invisible Revolution in the Third World (New York:Harper & Row, 1989).
  10. Hernando DeSoto, The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and FailsEverywhere Else (New York: Basic Books, 2003).
  11. Mancur Olson, Power and Prosperity: Outgrowing Communist and Capitalist Dictatorships (NewYork: Basic Books, 2000).
  12. 3Ibid., 185.
  13. Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents, 225.
  14. See Pierre Englebert, State Legitimacy and Development in Africa (Boulder, CO: Lynne RiennerPublishers, 2000), 17-25.
  15. Francis Fukuyama, State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century (New York:Cornell University Press, 2004), 8-9. See also Robert Rotberg, “Failed States in a World ofTerror,” Foreign Affairs 81.4 (2002): 132
  16. An exhaustive review of state capacity issues in the Global South would also examineregional particulars in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, focusing on topics like cor-poratist decision-making, party-central rule, the unique type of colonialism or the impact ofglobalization. Joel Migdal’s work, both Strong Societies and Weak States (Princeton UniversityPress, 1988)and State in Society (Cambridge University Press, 2001), offers not only an excellent review of state-society literature in comparative political analysis, but alternative casestudies, like Israel, that disprove some mainstream arguments.
  17. Robert Jackson and Carl Rosberg, “Personal Rule: Theory and Practice in Africa,” Compara-tive Politics 16:4 (July 1984): 421. See also Jackson and Rosberg’s Personal Rule in Black Africa(Berkeley: California University Press, 1982).
  18. An additional source that focuses on political culture and misplaced forms of sovereigntyas explanations for state weakness is Patrick Chabal and Jean-Pascal Daloz’s Africa Works:Disorder as Political Instrument (Oxford: James Currey, 1999).
  19. Christopher Clapham, Africa in the International System: The Politics of State Survival (Cam-bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 15.
  20. Robert Rotberg, “The Failure and Collapse of Nation-States,” in When States Fail, ed. RobertRotberg (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 27.
  21. Claude Ake, Democracy and Development in Africa (Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institu-tion, 1996).
  22. Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and Subject (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).

  23. See especially Underdevelopment Is a State of Mind – The Latin American Case (Cambridge,MA: Harvard Center for International Affairs, 1985) and The Central Liberal Truth: How Poli-tics Can Change a Culture and Save it From Itself (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006). Seealso Who Prospers: How Cultural Values Shape Economic and Political Success (New York: BasicBooks 1992); The Pan-American Dream: Do Latin America’s Cultural Values Discourage True Part-nership With the United States and Canada (Boulder: Westview Press, 1998); and, edited withSamuel P. Huntington, Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress (New York: BasicBooks, 2001).
  24. Harrison, The Central Liberal Truth, xiii.
  25. Ibid., 36-37.
  26. 7Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (New York: TheFree Press, 1995), 7.

  27. Robert Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (Princeton: PrincetonUniversity Press, 1993).
  28. Sachs, The End of Poverty, 317.
  29. Ibid., 318.
  30. Hernando De Soto, The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and FailsEverywhere Else (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 225.
  31. Amartya Sen, “How Does Culture Work?” in Vijayendra Rao and Michael Walton, eds.,Culture and Public Action (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004), 37-58.
  32. Arturo Escobar, Encountering Development (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).See also Escobar, “Environmental Social Movements and the Politics of Place,” Development45 (March 2002): 28-36; and Escobar, “Development, Violence and the New Imperial Order,”Development 47 (March 2004): 15-21.
  33. David C. Korten, When Corporations Rule the World (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publish-ers, 2001).
  34. Denis Goulet, The Cruel Choice: A New Concept in the Theory of Development (New York:Atheneum 1971); see also Goulet, “Development Experts: The One-Eyed Giants,” World De-velopment 8:7-8 (July/August 1980): 481-489.

  35. Mary Douglas, “Traditional Culture – Let’s Hear No More About It,” in Vijayendra Raoand Michael Walton, Culture and Public Action (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004),85-109.
  36. See Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (New York: Knopf, 1999), for Sen’s most complete explanation of the theory. Another main voice in developing the capabilities approachis philosopher Martha Nussbaum. See her Women and Human Development: The CapabilitiesApproach (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000) for a discussion of how she inte-grates the legitimacy of local cultures with an attempt to discover universal values.
  37. David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (NY: W.W. Norton, 1999). See also JaredM. Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies (NY: W.W. Norton, 1997). Foran excellent and extensive review of these two books, see James M. Blaut, “Environmental-ism and Eurocentrism,” The Geographical Review 89:3 (July 1999): 391-408.
  38. David S. Landes, “Culture Counts,” Challenge 41:4 (July-August 1998): 14-30.
  39. Blaut, “Environmentalism and Eurocentrism.”
  40. Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, 352.
  41. Ibid., 261.
  42. Ibid., 261.

  43. John Luke Gallup and Jeffrey D. Sachs with Andrew D. Mellinger, “Geography and Eco-nomic Development,” Harvard Institute for International Development, 1999.
  44. Ibid., 9.
  45. For a general overview of political ecology, see Raymond L. Bryant and Sinead Bailey,Third World Political Ecology (NY: Routledge, 1997) and Piers Blaikie, “A Review of PoliticalEcology: Issues, Epistemology and Analytical Narratives,” Zeitschrift Fur Wirtschaftsgeographie43:3-4 (1999): 131-147.
  46. Karl S. Zimmerer and Thomas J. Bassett, eds. Political Ecology: An Integrative Approach toGeography and Environment-Development Studies (NY: The Guilford Press, 2003).
  47. Ibid., 288
  48. Ibid., 3.
  49. Ibid., 4.
  50. Karl S. Zimmerer and Kenneth R. Young, eds. Nature’s Geography: New Lessons for Conserva-tion in Developing Countries (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998).
  51. Richard Peet and Michael Watts, eds. Liberation Ecologies: Environment, Development, SocialMovements (NY: Routledge, 2004).
  52. Piers Blaikie, The Political Economy of Soil Erosion in Developing Countries (NY: Longman,1985).
  53. Raymond L. Bryant and Sinead Bailey, Third World Political Ecology (NY: Routledge, 1997).
  54. Blaikie, 9.
  55. Piers Blaikie, “Changing Environments or Changing Views?” Geography 80:3 (1995): 203-214.
  56. Fikret Berkes and Carl Folke, Linking Social and Ecological Systems: Management Practices andSocial Mechanisms for Building Resilience (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 3.
  57. Roderick J. McIntosh, Joseph A. Tainter, and Susan Keech McIntoch, The Way the WindBlows: Climate, History, and Human Action (NY: Columbia University Press, 2000).
  58. Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (New York: Penguin Books,2005).
  59. Diamond, 11.
  60. A representative sample of work from different Christian traditions would include the fol-lowing: Richard A. Yoder, Calvin W. Redekop, & Vernon E. Jantzi, Development to a DifferentDrummer: Anabaptist/Mennonite Experiences and Perspectives (Intercourse, PA: Good Books,2003); Bryant L. Myers, Walking With the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational De-velopment (New York: Orbis Books, 1999); a good overview of Catholic Social Teaching ondevelopment is found in Edward P. DeBerri and James Hug,, Catholic Social Teaching:Our Best Kept Secret, 4th Edition, (New York: Orbis Books, 2003).
  61. Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason Within the Bounds of Religion (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Pub-lishing Co., 1976).
  62. Michael Woolcock, “Getting the Social Relations Right: Towards an Integrated Theologyand Theory of Development,” in Peter Heslam, ed., Globalization and the Good (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 41-50.
  63. Wolterstorff, Reason Within the Bounds of Religion.
  64. From the keynote address at the Transformational Development Conference,co-sponsoredby Food for the Hungry and George Fox University, August 14-16, 2008, Newberg, Oregon.
  65. Summarizing Committee Report of the World Evangelical Fellowship Theological Com-mission and Au Sable Institute Forum, Evangelical Review of Theology 17 (1993): 122-133.
  66. Loren Wilkinson, ed., Earthkeeping in the ‘90s: Stewardship of Creation (Grand Rapids, MI:William B. Eerdmans, 1991), 337.
  67. On the Care of Creation: An Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation, 1993.<>. Accessed July 15, 2008.
  68. 9Colin E. Gunton, The One, the Three and the Many: God, Creation and the Culture of Modernity(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 16.
  69. Jim Ball, “Evangelicals, Population, and the Ecological Crisis,” Christian Scholars Review 28(1998): 226-253.
  70. Evangelical Climate Initiative, “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action,” January2006.
  71. 2David Little and Scott Appleby, “A Moment of Opportunity?” in Harold Coward and Gor-don Smith, eds., Religion and Peacebuilding (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004),5.
  72. John Paul Lederach, Building Peace (Washington, DC: United States Institute for Peace Press,1997). See also Cynthia Sampson and John Paul Lederach, eds., From the Ground Up: Menno-nite Contributions to International Peacebuilding (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
  73. Andrea Bartoli, “Christianity and Peacebuilding,” in Religion and Peacebuilding, 147-166.
  74. Ibid., 161.
  75. 76Russel Botman, “Truth and Reconciliation,” in Religion and Peacebuilding, 250. For more onthe TRC, see Lyn Graybill, Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Miracle or Model? (Boulder,CO: Lynne Rienner, 2002) or Raymond Helmick and Rodney Petersen, Forgiveness and Recon-ciliation (Radnor, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2001).
  76. Mark Amstutz, The Healing of Nations (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), 1
  77. The authors would like to thank the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship for its finan-cial support. We also with to thank Adel Abadeer, Marilyn Bierling, Gail Heffner, DanielMiller, George Monsma, Jr., Amy Patterson, Evert Van Der Heide, Kurt Ver Beek, and UkoZylstra for joining us in lively discussion of these topics and for reviewing and commentingon early drafts of this article.

Roland Hoksbergen

Calvin University
Mr. Hoksbergen is Professor of Economics at Calvin College.

Janel Curry

Gordon College
Janel Curry is the Provost at Gordon College.

Tracy Kuperus

Calvin University
Ms. Kuperus is Adjunct Professor of International Development at Calvin College.