top of page

Western Ideas of Development: Communitarianism

By Etien Jasonson - HSPS Student @ Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge


It can be tempting to look back on the trajectory that international development practices have traced through history and conclude that they have been dominated by trends towards bureaucratisation, centralisation, and industrialisation. After all, many contemporary development actors are indeed fixated on such ideas. This, however, misses an important and influential countertrend that took place during the early years of international development: communitarianism. What exactly it means to ‘develop’ is a contentious and sprawling debate in itself; thus, for the purposes of this piece, to ‘develop’ simply means to ‘make better’ in accordance with the Western ideas of progress and modernity that held sway at the time.