What do Rwanda and Ethiopia Mean for Development Theory?

13 Jul

I’ve just published a piece in World Politics Review on what I call the “African Lions” and development theory. Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Uganda pose a challenge to theories of development that link political and civil liberties to human development. Alongside my piece, the World Politics Review has also published two really interesting essays on Rwanda and Ethiopia, with lots of on the ground reporting. Here’s a link to a free 30-day subscription to the magazine. I’m always impressed with it: they are publishing in-depth, analytical articles on international topics that are overlooked by the mainstream media.


2 Responses to “What do Rwanda and Ethiopia Mean for Development Theory?”

  1. Thomas Rodham July 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm #

    I read your piece in WPR but am far from convinced by your argument.

    Notably, your representation of Sen’s arguments for democracy is so grossly distorted that I must assume you haven’t actually read the book by him that you cite several times.

    Sen defends deomcracy on 3 grounds.

    1. Democracy and political freedoms are constitutive of human development – they are good things in themselves.

    2. Democracy can be instrumentally useful to the furthering of other development goals. The same is true of education, health, adequate nourishment, etc. Note that the difference between democracies and autocracies is the accountability of governments to their people. The fact that some autocracies with messianic leaders like Zenawi or Kagame happen to treat their people well in some respects is not empirical evidence against the value of democracy. For what can the people of Rwanda and Ethiopia do if their heavily militarised governments ever change their minds? Museveni’s recent treatment of peaceful protests shows the value of an autocrat’s promises.

    3. Sen points out that democracy also has a constructive role in allowing societies to debate and come to new understandings about their concerns and priorities, for example what justice requires for suspected genocidaires. Autocracies shut down that debate.

    • michellesieff July 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

      Thanks for reading. I’ve actually read Sen very closely. I recognize that he makes both a principled and a consequentalist argument for democracy. I chose to focus on the consequentalist argument for this essay because it is an argument/theory that holds a lot of sway in development circles.

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