Knowledge and authentic development: the value of Political Theory to Development Studies

Conhecimento e desenvolvimento autêntico: o valor da Teoria Política para os Estudos de Desenvolvimento


  • Okechukwu Ibeanu Professor and Researcher of the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nigeria.
  • Bernard Nwosu Senior Research Fellow of the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nigeria.



Development studies, Political theory, Authentic, Methodology, Social Commitment


 Development studies is a beneficiary of knowledge resources from several disciplines including political theory’s analytic and prescriptive input. The dominant background of political theory and other disciplinary contributions to development studies is the liberal thought. Liberal theses on development seem to presume that development only makes meaning from such perspective. However, tensions arise in knowledge claims between the neoclassical liberals and alternative liberal scholars especially the neo-Keynesian on the one hand and more radical neo-Marxist thoughts on the other hand. The tension is centrally concerned with contention between the market sovereignty of the neoclassicals and state interventionism of the Keynesian and neo Marxist radical thoughts. These contentions draw in the role of the state in development and  hence, create an opening for political theory’s intervention. This paper establishes the nexus of political theory and development studies by focusing its subject matter, methodology and social commitments. The main claim of the work is that the dominant liberal ideas on development fail to capture the realities of all societies, yet the alternative frameworks, despite their promise, have yet to elaborate their tenets to capture the nuances of developing societies in Africa. Accordingly, the decisive intervention in defining the roles of both citizens and state for a development based on constructivist understanding of society is a necessary role of political theory in development studies.


Os estudos de desenvolvimento são beneficiados pelos recursos de conhecimento de várias disciplinas, incluindo os inputs analíticos e prescritivos da teoria política. O pano de fundo dominante da teoria política e outras contribuições disciplinares aos estudos de desenvolvimento é o pensamento liberal. As teses liberais sobre desenvolvimento aparentam pressupor que o desenvolvimento apenas faz sentido a partir dessa perspetiva. No entanto, as tensões surgem sob a forma de procura de conhecimento entre os liberais neoclássicos e estudiosos liberais alternativos, especialmente o neokeynesiano, por um lado, e os pensamentos neo-marxistas mais radicais, por outro lado. A tensão está centralmente relacionada com a disputa entre a soberania de mercado dos neoclássicos e o intervencionismo estatal dos pensamentos radicais keynesianos e neo-marxistas. Estas disputas atraem o papel do Estado em desenvolvimento e, portanto, criam uma abertura para a intervenção da teoria política. Este artigo estabelece o nexo da teoria política e estudos de desenvolvimento ao focar-se na temática em questão, na metodologia e em compromissos sociais. A principal reivindicação do artigo é que as ideias liberais dominantes sobre o desenvolvimento falham em captar as realidades de todas as sociedades, ainda que as estruturas alternativas, apesar das suas promessas, ainda não tenham elaborado os seus princípios para capturar as nuances das sociedades em desenvolvimento em África. Consequentemente, a intervenção decisiva na definição dos papeis dos cidadãos e do Estado para um desenvolvimento baseado na compreensão construtivista da sociedade é um papel necessário da teoria política nos estudos de desenvolvimento.


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Author Biographies

Okechukwu Ibeanu, Professor and Researcher of the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nigeria.



Bernard Nwosu, Senior Research Fellow of the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nigeria.




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How to Cite

Ibeanu, O., & Nwosu, B. (2017). Knowledge and authentic development: the value of Political Theory to Development Studies: Conhecimento e desenvolvimento autêntico: o valor da Teoria Política para os Estudos de Desenvolvimento. Perspectivas - Journal of Political Science, 16, 21-35.