1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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UNRISD Conference on Social Knowledge and International Policy Making: Exploring the Linkages


Integrating Knowledge, Politics and Policy for Social Change


by Shalmali Guttal

For over fifty years, mainstream development discourse has defined acceptable and unacceptable standards of life for the world’s peoples. The dominant image of the post World-War II era of development is one of social and economic transformation through the exercise of economic, technological, scientific, intellectual and institutional expertise. And certainly, such transformations are visible in physical infrastructure, medical science, industry, new technologies and sciences, information and knowledge, new products, legal, financial and administrative systems, and material well being for many.

At the same time, not all of development’s transformations have led to progressive social and economic change. The development era has also resulted in, the concentration of wealth and assets in the hands of a small number of commercial entities; increased inequality and unemployment; recurrent famines and hunger; accelerated environmental contamination and destruction; the dislocation of rural societies and economies; shattering debt and economic crises; the growth of unliveable urban environments; chronic health crises; and widespread alienation of millions of people from traditional lands and environments through involuntary displacement and migration. This has been accompanied by a corresponding increase in wars, social/ethnic conflicts and violence, decreased democratic and political space, and a renewed subservience of former colonies to the industrialised north through contemporary international agreements...

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