2016: Volume 47
Ten years on from the landmark 2006 edition of the IDS Bulletin that brought us the ‘powercube’ – a practical approach to power analysis that offered a way of confronting its complexity – we return to the question of how to analyse and act on power in development. This issue focuses on the ways in which invisible power can perpetuate injustice and widen inequalities. Articles call for ways to denaturalise norms and structures of social, political and economic inequality – tackling injustice, misrecognition, poverty, disenfranchisement – so that the universal aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals may have a chance of success. Contributors discuss the ways in which economic and political modes of inequality interact with social inequalities such as gender, race or sexuality to create yet more inequality, confronting policymakers with a challenge. Such complex social inequalities become ‘normal’ – but the contributions in this new IDS Bulletin offer ways of untangling complexity using approaches to analysis which take account of multiple dynamics in unequal relations.
Articles suggests means by which tacit understandings of what is bearable, useful and fair can be brought into question. The SDG call to ‘leave no one behind’ – which will only be achieved through breaking the vicious circle of inequality – is more than about policy, increased action, or creating alternative economies. It is also about changing norms of what is possible, and making visible those invisible norms that have hindered our ability to imagine and create a just world.
This issue of the IDS Bulletin focuses on the role of foresight in policy-oriented international development research and seeks to draw attention to the opportunities and challenges associated with the wide range of foresight approaches and methods that help individuals and groups to think about and prepare for different possible futures.
From its systematic origins in the private sector – where the interest was in developing strategy, understanding implications of present and future trends and events, facilitating better decision-making and improving risk management – so governments and public sector bodies subsequently embraced foresight with similar objectives.
Looking to the future is – or certainly should be – at the core of development studies. While the benefit of ‘looking back to look forward’ is well recognised, foresight is more akin to ‘looking forward to look forward’. It is striking that foresight approaches and methods do not figure prominently in policy-oriented development research. Why might this be so? This IDS Bulletin suggests two possible explanations. First, most social science disciplines are more comfortable with the analysis of the past and the present than the future. Second, the model of the large, well-funded public sector foresight programme simply does not reflect the realities of much policy-oriented development research.
A principle concern of this issue is whether foresight approaches and methods can be usefully integrated into small-scale, exploratory research of relevance to the international development community.
Perhaps more than any other region or any other period of post-Cold War history, the Middle East since the Arab Spring constitutes a significant challenge to established ideas about development and its relationship with conflict. The failure of democracy movements, the collapse and rebirth of authoritarian regimes, the regional conflagration around Syria, new experiments with Islamism, and the return of geopolitics all, in one way or another, challenge these established ideas. The Middle East has always been something of an outlier within development thinking and practice: both the discipline of development studies and development policy have always taken sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America as their central reference points, not the Middle East. But with so much international attention currently on the Middle East, it is worthwhile examining what recent trends and events there tell us about development and the role of conflict therein; this is what is done in this IDS Bulletin.
Broadly, the articles consider myths around conflict and development about the Middle East region. These include: that there is a unilinear model of development; that low development and violent conflict are natural bedfellows; that there is an alternative rentier path of development; that fragile statehood is the main institutional cause of violence; that environmental scarcities are an increasingly important contributor to conflict; that countries need to pass a number of milestones on a democratisation pathway; that more humanitarian aid will contain the Syrian refugee crisis and that, following a period of ‘Arab Spring’, people’s agency has been defeated.
‘How does change happen?’ and ‘How should change happen and how can it be enabled?’ are key questions analysed in this IDS Bulletin, drawing on the Institute of Development Studies’ reflections on States, Markets and Society as a theme of its 50th Anniversary year.
The year generally, and this Bulletin issue specifically, looks back in order to look forward to future challenges and how to meet them. While the first part of this IDS Bulletin draws on a selection of archive articles to highlight key debates over the decades, the second part looks forward by drawing on contributions to IDS’ 50th Anniversary conference, which took place in July 2016. The roles and relationships of the public and private sectors and civil society have been central themes in analysis and action around the social, economic and political change that constitutes development. However, articles in this issue suggest that over-dominance of market forces over government, business and civil society accounts for many of today’s development challenges, and suggest a rebalancing of the current States–Markets–Society triad to give greater weight and influence to state and societal forces to those of the market. An agenda is also considered for new alliances and relationships, suggesting that cross-cutting themes and inter- and transdisciplinary approaches will be required – by international partnerships – to integrate high quality research with the knowledge of people working in state, business and civil society organisations, mobilising evidence for impact. In such ways, this IDS Bulletin charts some contours of a future map of development studies, in a new era.
At 50 years old, the Institute of Development Studies is ‘looking back, in order to look forward so too this IDS Bulletin aims to trace the history of certain topics in development studies by bringing together two generations of scholars – Research Fellows and students – to provide insight to our rich past and promising future. The nine articles in this issue represent this collaboration and consider the larger picture: Where is development studies today? Where has it come from? And what role have specific fields of research played in the development of development studies? Such an issue is certainly an ambitious task, since ideas in development theory and practice cannot be divorced from the broader assumptions, aspirations and beliefs of any given era.
Each article in this IDS Bulletin speaks to how topics in development studies have critically challenged the existing paradigms, particularly on expanding the focus of development from the ‘South’ to a universal approach. They all explore the intersectionality of different aspects to development, say the intersection of climate change and poverty, race and inequality, cities and violence. And also, reflective of the multidisciplinary approach to development in this issue, a wide range of topics are presented – from gender to urban violence to agriculture input subsidies – documenting how each of these have been tackled using a wide range of research tools, from ethnographies to econometric analysis.