1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Markets, Business and Regulation (2000 - 2009) | Event: Public-Private Partnerships for Sustainable Development


Public-Private Partnerships for Sustainable Development

  • Date: 15 Aug 2006
  • Location: Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
  • Speakers: Søren Petersen, Darryl Reed, Ananya Reed, Peter Utting, Ann Zammit, Uwafiokun Idemudia, Shaheen Rafi Khan, Sofie Michaelsen
  • Project Title: Business and Poverty Reduction

Reed & Reed - Corporate Social Responsibility, Public-Private Partnerships and Human Development: Towards a New Agenda (and Beyond)


The decade of the nineties saw a major shift in the understanding of the role of business in development. In the decolonization period, modernization approaches, including the phenomena of the “developmental state,” dominated. They viewed the state as the main agent of development and perceived disciplining business as one of the state’s key tasks. While most modernization projects in the Global South entailed the development a modern business sector, the underlying premise was that a strong state was required in order to harness business activity in the cause of development. The exercise of such control over the business sector was, in fact, one of the primary sources of the legitimacy of the state.

This view changed quite dramatically starting in the eighties. With the various fiscal and developmental crises in the Global South, as well as the rise of neo-liberalism (due in part to the various crises of capitalisms in the West), states began to be viewed as the problem rather than the solution (Evans, 1992). In this context, business, conversely, came to be portrayed as the major component of the solution to the problems created by state failure. This shift in worldview was both the cause and consequence of the tremendous rise in the power of business – including their increasing ‘organic’ linkages with states and international institutions and their ability to systematically enter policy processes – a change that was to have a profound impact on development.

While these major changes were occurring in the global economy, the discourse on development was also evolving, progressing from conventional development to sustainable development, through to human development and on to even more radical alternatives. Somewhat ironically, in its critical reflections on growth as the paradigm for development, this changing discourse was not always fully reflected on the changing nature of the relationship between business and state (and between private accumulation and public control) in the elaboration of its more progressive visions...