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Human Development: Two Kinds or One?

Achin Chakraborty

By The Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Centre
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2008, pp. xvii 330, Rs. 595.00

By Margaret Khalakdina
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2008, pp. xxvii 371, Rs. 850.00


It is rather ironic that two apparently different strands of knowledge known by the common name ‘human development’, have so far shown very little cross-fertilization between them. While students in the Home Science departments of colleges and universities in India have long been studying human development in the sense of development of personhood from childhood, the annual Human Development Reports published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 1990 have been using the same pair of words to articulate a seemingly different concept. UNDP’s human development perspective has been established firmly in the global scene as an influential approach in the realm of public policies. It views development as expansion of people’s capabilities and enlargement of choices with emphasis on public action for promotion of this kind of development. Human development taught in home science colleges, on the other hand, is based mainly on the discipline of developmental psychology that deals with motor, mental, emotional and social development of the human individual. Given the conspicuous absence of any intersection between the two different conceptualizations, could we think of a common plane in which the two could be compared and dissected with the aim of building a synthetic analytical framework on the strengths of the two seemingly unconnected approaches? We could, it seems.   The annual Human Development Reports published by UNDP have been a major force behind a shift in development discourse since the 1990s. In the words of Human Development Report 2001:   Human development is about creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accord with their needs and interests. . . Fundamental to enlarging choices is building human capabilities—the range of things people can do or be in life. The most basic capabilities for human development are to lead long and healthy lives, to be knowledgeable, to have access to resources needed for a decent standard of living and to be able to participate in the life of the community.   Despite the complexity and richness of the concept of human development, which is evident from the passage quoted above, it is frequently assumed that human development is essentially about education and health. Undoubtedly, the paradigmatic shift in development discourse since the 1990s has influenced policy makers around the world to rethink the goals of development. Intrinsic to the human development approach is the notion of human agency. Instead of seeing ...

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