What Is Development?

Development focuses on social change and the improvement of people’s quality of life. The most important indicators of development include growth in income per person, the availability of food and water, education, medical care, housing, transportation and the overall safety of a community. Development also includes the elimination of foreign economic exploitation by multinational corporations and the removal of barriers to the flow of labor, capital and technology.

The development of human beings is a highly complex subject that can be studied from many different perspectives and approaches. Among the most significant assumptions that guide researchers are questions about the role of nature versus nurture (the influence of genes and biology versus experience). Other important assumptions center on the degree to which individuals play active or passive roles in their own development. For example, Piaget’s theory of cognitive development suggests that children actively explore their environment and construct new ways of thinking about it. This contrasts with the assumption of many behaviorists that humans are essentially passive participants in their own development, reacting to external forces.

In addition to the aforementioned assumptions, there are many other aspects of development that require attention. For example, the Right Livelihood Award-winning economist Manfred Max Neef proposes that development should be based on fundamental human needs, which are limited but can take on various forms. He differentiates between satisfiers that are violators or destroyers, pseudosatisfiers, inhibiting satisfiers and synergic satisfiers. He also explains that for there to be sustainable development, equitability and balance must be taken into account.