The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 43–58 | Cite as

The Global Economic Crisis and Beyond: What Possible Future(s) for Development Studies?

  • Andy Sumner
Original Article


The context for ‘development’ – however defined – is changing, not only because of the global economic crisis, but also in light of broader changes. If the context for development is changing, then the study of this ‘development’ will also need to adapt to these changing circumstances. This article seeks to contribute to debates on the future of development studies (DS), and consider what the changing context for ‘development’ might mean for a new ‘operating system’ within DS. The article outlines two possible stylised futures to trigger debate, respectively based on a widening or a narrowing of the scope of DS: A future DS with a broader scope via global perspectives on inter-connected development (a ‘one-world’ DS); and a future DS with a narrower scope via attention to the needs of the poorest countries or the poorest people (a ‘bottom billion’ DS).

Le contexte du ‘développement’ – quelqu′en soit la définition – est actuellement en mutation. Ceci est vrai non seulement à la lumière de la crise économique mondiale, mais aussi à cause d’autres changements plus généraux de grande envergure. Si le contexte du développement évolue, il est clair que l’étude de ce ‘développement’ devra, d′une manière ou d′une autre, s′adapter à ces changements. Cet article cherche à contribuer à la réflexion sur l′avenir des études du développement et à examiner les implications des évolutions du contexte du développement pour l′émergence d′un nouveau ‘système d′exploitation’ pour la recherche sur le développement. Nous présentons deux possibles scénarios stylisés afin de provoquer un débat, basé respectivement sur un élargissement et un rétrécissement du champ de la recherche sur le développement : Une recherche dont le champ d′analyse est élargi à travers des perspectives globales sur un développement interdépendant (une recherche sur le développement d’un monde ‘dans son ensemble’) vis-à-vis d′une recherche dont le champ est plus étroit, davantage centrée sur les besoins des pays ou populations les plus pauvres (les études du développement focalisées sur ‘le milliard du bas’).


crisis futures poverty development studies 



The author acknowledges three anonymous referees who contributed to the shaping of this article via their comments. Parts of this article draw on and develop discussions of Sumner and Tribe (2009; Chapter 2).


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andy Sumner
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Development Studies, University of SussexBrighton

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