Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Values and Development: a Pragmatic Reconstruction

Brian P. Jenkin


Broad consensus exists in development studies that development involves achieving and sustaining a so-called “good life.” Considerably less agreement exists, however, as to what the goal of such a life consists in and what the best practices are for bringing such a life about. The varying and competing types of approaches to development currently on offer, including cultural-economic approaches, capabilities approaches, and happiness approaches, are the conceptual by-products of this discord. The impasse between these approaches owes in part to the vagueness and seeming incommensurability of value judgments. It owes in equal part to three common and interwoven tendencies when it comes to how values are approached in development theory and practice. These include: (1) the tendency to view values as fixed and final; (2) the tendency to formulate and evaluate means distinctly from ends; and (3) the tendency to equate the individual character of value experience with value subjectivism, though it is wholly compatible with value objectivism. The purpose of this paper is to critically analyze these value tendencies while offering a theoretical reconstruction of each utilizing conceptual resources from philosophical pragmatism, especially John Dewey’s version it. It is argued that, by adopting a more pragmatic approach to values, development theorists and practitioners can constructively move past the present impasse in development studies.

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