Concept and Meaning of Social Development

Development is a broad concept and, though interrelated, it differs from social change. Change is a value-neutral concept whereas development is a value-laden concept. The notion of development is, in other words, the process of the desired change. All cases of change do not indicate development. Only planned and desired changes can be described as development. Thus, it is important to keep in mind the distinct character of the concept of development.

Prevailing Conception of development 

For a discussion of the contemporary sociological concerns about development, we can begin by outlining some of the views based on historical events, on the socio-cultural dimensions of development. But before we examine these dominant concerns regarding development, it would be useful to undertake a brief description of the “three worlds of development” as it had existed prior to the break-up of the Soviet Union. This had become an important part of the social scientist's parlance since the middle of the 20th century. Earlier the world was divided into two i.e. it was a bipolar world with the capitalist block of the United States of America (USA), on the one side and the socialist block of the Soviet Union, on the other. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, the ‘Cold War ‘ has ended and the world has become Unipolar, with the USA as the most powerful nation in the world.

Social development is a process that can be explained only with the help of economic and political development. It is very much interrelated with these two. The concept of social development has been introduced to appraise the dynamics of developing societies. Social scientists have enumerated the contents of development under various categories such as nutrition, shelter, health education, leisure and recreation, security, and opulence level or under the categories like output and income, conditions of production, levels of living, attitude towards life, and work, institutions and policies.

The Three Worlds of Development

The First World consists of North America, Western and Southern Europe. The countries were seen to be following mainly a capitalist model of development. The Second World had consisted of the Soviet Union and the East European group such as, Poland, East Germany, Hungary etc. Many socio-political changes have occurred in these countries now and they do not remain a communist bloc anymore.

They were associated with the socialist model of development. The Third World was and to a certain extent still is generally used to refer to the less developed or developing societies of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.Most of these countries emerged out of colonial rule to attain political independence only in the middle of the 20th century. The majority of the third world countries are characterised by low per capita income, high rates of illiteracy and infant mortality. These were generally agriculture-based economies where people had short life expectancies, low degree of social mobility and strong attachment to tradition.The First and the Second World’s models of development had laid primary emphasis on economic growth. 

1-The Capitalist Model of Development of the First World

  1. provision for private ownership of property and means of production, 
  2.  promotion of economic activities through private enterprises, and 
  3. minimum possible state regulation and control on private enterprises. 
  4. Thus the capitalist model is characterized by a free economy regulated by competition
2-The Socialist Model of Development of the Second World
  1. The socialist path of development adopted by the Second World was seen to be opposite or dichotomous to the capitalist path of development. The former, contrary to the latter, is characterized by state ownership of property and means of production, public enterprises and complete state regulation of economic activities. Thus, the socialist model refers to a regulated economy.
  2. The main allegation against the capitalist model is that, since it permits minimum state regulation, its economic system becomes exploitative in the sense that the working-class people (proletariat) do not get their due share. The capitalists enjoy a major share of the nation’s resources. Hence it contributes to inequalities so that a few are very rich and the majority is very poor.
  3. The capitalist model is, therefore, alleged to be exploitative and non-egalitarian. On the contrary, the socialist model was ideally considered as non-exploitative and egalitarian. Private ownership and the lack of state regulation, were considered to be important measures of exploitation of the weaker sections and hence the causes of income inequalities. Since, the socialist state did not allow private ownership of property, there was a strong belief that there was no room for exploitation and inequality in it. However, historical events proved this belief to be incorrect as the Soviet Union could not survive for long.
The period of “Glasnost” and “perestroika” led by Gorbachev, the erstwhile Russian Prime Minister during the 1980s, dismantled the communist political and economic structure. The Soviet Union broke up into several small countries and the socialist ideology gave way to capitalist tendencies. However, China still follows a socialistic socio-political order. 
3-) Development of the Third World
It is difficult to specify the model of development, adopted by the majority of the. Third World countries as there are variations among them, dictated mainly by their historical and socio-cultural circumstances. What they seem to share in common is that:
  1. They are economically and technologically underdeveloped in comparison to the countries of the so-called developed world. 
  2. Social planning is a key element in their development process. Their plans of development incorporate not only economic concerns, especially the removal of poverty, but also concerns regarding nation-building, national culture, and social transformation.
  3.  They have been seeking technological and economic aid from the developed countries. The developed countries have given them economic assistance, but they have also been increasingly attempting to extend their political influence in developing countries. It has been noted that the global military defense strategy is, the major consideration of the developed countries, in extending their economic and political influence to the developing countries.


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