Development Discourse and Global History: From colonialism to the sustainable development goals (Hardback) book cover

Development Discourse and Global History

From colonialism to the sustainable development goals

By Aram Ziai

© 2016 – Routledge

244 pages | 2 B/W Illus.

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The manner in which people have been talking and writing about ‘development’ and the rules according to which they have done so have evolved over time.

Development Discourse and Global History uses the archaeological and genealogical methods of Michel Foucault to trace the origins of development discourse back to late colonialism and notes the significant discontinuities that led to the establishment of a new discourse and its accompanying industry. This book goes on to describe the contestations, appropriations and transformations of the concept. It shows how some of the trends in development discourse since the crisis of the 1980s – the emphasis on participation and ownership, sustainable development and free markets – are incompatible with the original rules and thus lead to serious contradictions. The Eurocentric, authoritarian and depoliticizing elements in development discourse are uncovered, whilst still recognizing its progressive appropriations. The author concludes by analysing the old and new features of development discourse which can be found in the debate on Sustainable Development Goals and discussing the contribution of discourse analysis to development studies.

This book is aimed at researchers and students in development studies, global history and discourse analysis as well as an interdisciplinary audience from international relations, political science, sociology, geography, anthropology, language and literary studies.


"The book’s main strength is the way in which it draws together a wide range of critical discussions of development and condenses from them a coherent and clear critique of development. While discourse analysis (and other poststructuralist approaches) are often criticised for using obscure or unnecessarily complex language, Ziai’s book is clear and jargon-free. Furthermore, it begins with a very accessible discussion of poststructuralism and discourse analysis rather than assuming familiarity with the terms that will be used in the rest of the book."The Journal of Development Studies, Sally Matthews, Rhodes University

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The discourse of ‘development’ Part I - Theory 2. Poststructuralism, discourse and power Part II - Archaeology 3. From ‘civilising mission’ to ‘development’ 4. An archaeology of development knowledge 5. The concept of ‘development’ and why it should be abandoned 6. Development discourse: appropriation and tactical polyvalence Part III - Genealogy 7. The transformation of development discourse: Participation, sustainability, heterogeneity 8. From ‘development’ to ‘globalisation’ 9. World Bank discourse and poverty reduction 10. ‘Development’: projects, power and a poststructuralist perspective 11. Millennium Development Goals: back to the future? 12. Justice, not development. Sen and the hegemonic framework for ameliorating global

inequality 13. Migration management as development aid? The IOM and the International Migration

and Development Initiative 14. The Post-2015-Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals: the persistence of

development discourse Part IV - Conclusion 15. Conclusion: The contribution of discourse analysis to development studies

About the Author

Aram Ziai is a Heisenberg-Professor of the German Research Foundation (DFG) for Development and Postcolonial Studies at the University of Kassel, Germany. He previously taught at the Institute for International Development (IE) at Vienna University.

About the Series

Routledge Explorations in Development Studies

The series features innovative and original research at the regional and global scale. Its scope extends to scholarly works that take an interdisciplinary and comparative approach.

In terms of theory and method, rather than basing itself on any one orthodoxy, the series draws broadly on the tool kit of the social sciences in general, emphasizing comparison, the analysis of the structure and processes, and the application of qualitative and quantitative methods.

The series welcomes submissions from established authors in the field as well as from junior authors. To submit proposals, please contact the Development Studies Editor, Helena Hurd (

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy