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Theories of Global Development

1. Development: A Contested Concept

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About this Lecture


In this lecture, we think about contesting interpretations of development as a concept, focusing in particular on: (i) two of the most common ways of measuring development - the GNI (Gross National Income) per capita, which is solely economic in nature, and the HDI (Human Development Index), which includes social indicators; (ii) the roles of normative value judgements and power relations in shaping how development is defined and put into practice; (iii) the terminology we use to classify levels of development, such as First and Third World, and Global North and Global South.


In this course, Professor Katie Willis (Royal Holloway, University of London) explores theories of global development. In the first lecture, we look at development as a contested concept, and at some of the ways it has been defined and measured. In the second lecture, we consider modernisation theories and their development since the Cold War. In the third lecture, we look at their relationship to neoliberalism. Next, we think about dependency and world systems approaches to explaining different levels of development across the world. In the fifth lecture, we look at sustainable development and the incorporation of environmental issues into development theory and practice. In the sixth and final lecture, we turn to post-development theory and the critique of development as a concept.


Professor Katie Willis is Professor of Human Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London. She researches a broad range of issues related to migration, gender and global development. Her publications include Unaccompanied Young Migrants: Identity, Care and Justice (2019) (as co-editor), Geographies of Developing Areas: The Global South in a Changing World (2014) (as co-author), and Theories and Practices of Development (2005).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Willis, K. (2021, August 23). Theories of Global Development - Development: A Contested Concept [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Willis, K. "Theories of Global Development – Development: A Contested Concept." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Aug 2021,

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