Drawing on the methodological insights of Global Historical Sociology, this article argues for a relational reconceptualization of the origins of the international development project as rooted in demands emanating from the poorer countries themselves, particularly in Latin America. First, this article traces how sociologists and development scholars have conventionally understood the origins of the international development project, arguing that post-development scholarship has left a lasting imprint even among those scholars who might reject some of its underlying premises. It then returns to the historical record to reconstruct a new empirical history of the origins of the international development project by examining, especially, the relations between Latin American actors and those from the Global North. This reconstruction, mobilizing little-studied archival records from Latin America and reading them in relation to and against the conventional sources from the United States and Europe, reveals that the key institutions that emerged at mid-century to govern the development project were, in fact, the product of sustained demands from below—the product of an ongoing relation between North and South. The article concludes by considering what this historical reconstruction means for the ways that sociologists understand, write about, and teach the international development project, arguing that this relational understanding of its origins is necessary for any project to “decolonize development.”
Developmentalism as Internationalism: Toward a Global Historical Sociology of the Origins of the Development Project
Christy Thornton is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Co-chair of the Program in Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Christy Thornton; Developmentalism as Internationalism: Toward a Global Historical Sociology of the Origins of the Development Project. Sociology of Development 1 March 2023; 9 (1): 33–55. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sod.2022.0012
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