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The Human Story of Development: Alva Myrdal at the UN, 1949–1955

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Part of the The Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series book series (PMSTH)

Abstract

When the Swedish feminist and political activist Alva Myrdal arrived in New York in February of 1949 to take up her unique position as principal or “top-ranking” director of the United Nations Department of Social Welfare, the word “development” was relatively unfamiliar as a synonym for the modernizing impulse that would redefine the relationship between empires and colonies in the second half of the twentieth century. Instead, Myrdal’s arrival coincided with the testing of an international mission oriented around technical assistance or TA, only belatedly assimilated into the larger concept of development. Against this background, her international career offers historians a critical nexus for probing “the competing visions of modernity” that shaped international development in the early years of the UN. During Myrdal’s seven years as an executive in the UN and the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) bureaucracies,1 she was intent on a technical-assistance vision of development that addressed social and economic injustice and, more particularly, the status of women. International and even intergovernmental organizations such as the UN and UNESCO, she believed, could work towards these ends by putting the “social” into the international in a way that elevated the “human”.2

Keywords

  • Social Welfare
  • Technical Assistance
  • Social Affair
  • Educational Outlook
  • Human Security

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© 2014 Glenda Sluga

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Sluga, G. (2014). The Human Story of Development: Alva Myrdal at the UN, 1949–1955. In: Frey, M., Kunkel, S., Unger, C.R. (eds) International Organizations and Development, 1945–1990. The Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137437549_3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137437549_3

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-349-49384-5

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