Understanding Development, by Paul Hopper, Polity Press, £18.99.
Understanding Development is an academic book that does not read like one. It introduces a key concept of global affairs to the non-expert reader in a jargon-free and complete fashion. Here, ‘development’ is taken beyond the traditional view of an ensemble of policies to alleviate poverty undertaken by global actors – states, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, multinational companies and even individuals. Instead, Hopper untangles this elaborate umbrella concept and shows us how it was forged through a complex history and various experiments in the 20th century. Another element that distinguishes Hopper’s book from more obscure or partisan publications is his ‘issue-driven’ approach. The topics it encompasses are broad and diverse: they range from gender policies to trade regulations, with environment, sustainability, post-conflict measures, development funding, health and education given a special emphasis. Hopper dedicates a concise and clear chapter to each of them, with theoretical and practical approaches commenting on policies formerly and currently implemented. Hopper demonstrates nicely how development, or rather “developments”- as he puts it, are multiple and contingent to world issues. An underlying common ground to all practices would be the ultimate aim of empowering people throughout the globe, and providing them with the possibility of choosing the ways they desire to live their lives. In short, Hopper helps the reader to understand the stakes of an often confusing and multidimensional net of thoughts and practices that are defining our age.