The nature of development discourse attracts growing attention. Various authors propose lists of basic features of this discourse or of some mainstream in it. One central proposed feature is a frequent usage of the term 'development' as simultaneously descriptive and evaluative: as referring to specific empirical features or processes and at the same time as inherently good, good by definition. James Ferguson, like some earlier authors, describes this as a tacit oscillation between two definitions of development, one meaning modernization, industrialization and/or transition to capitalism, and the other meaning improvement of quality of life or increase of well-being (1990: 15, 55). Negative experiences of capitalism or whatever then become excused as not real examples, not 'real development'; and the concept of 'development' can live on as at the same time a definite programme and an untarnishable promise. The programme becomes treated as essentially good, and the negative experiences as excusable misfortunes.

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Series ISS Staff Group 2: States, Societies and World Development
Journal The European Journal of Development Research
Note Also published as a chapter in: Arguing Development Policy - Frames And Discourses, eds. R. Apthorpe and D. Gasper, London: Frank Cass, 1996
Gasper, D.R. (1996). Essentialism in and about Development Discourse. The European Journal of Development Research, 1996(June), 149–176. Retrieved from

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