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Ethics of Development




Admission Requirements



Humanity has never been as prosperous as in the first decade of the 21st century. At the same time there have never been so many deprived people on the planet: more than one billion people live on less than $1 a day. This raises a number of ethical questions. What is development? Who benefits from and who bears the costs of development? What are appropriate development choices and pathways? What responsibilities do the rich have to the poor? And who is deciding on such questions?

Societal improvement is still often equated with economic growth and modernization. But the idea that progress should be understood, valued and managed solely in monetary terms is increasingly challenged in developmental theory, planning and practice.

This course examines the human costs that development strategies and interventions typically involve. It addresses the normative questions and ethical issues that underlie the notion of development, and explores alternative concepts (such as the notion of development as freedom).

Course Objectives

  • Basic understanding of ethical theories on development;

  • Insight in different meanings and interpretations of key concepts in developmental ethics (such as development, efficiency, equity, need, value, freedom and security);

  • Strengthen interdisciplinary and problem-oriented analysis of societal development and change.

  • Improved understanding of contemporary societal debates on global development

Mode of Instruction

The course consists of lectures, working groups and excursions. Students are required to make weekly assignments.


Assessment: Participation
Learning aim: Engagement with course material
Percentage: 10%
Deadline: On-going

Assessment: Proposal (paper & poster)
Learning aim: Interdisciplinary and problem-oriented analysis
Percentage: 30%
Deadline: Week 7 & 8

Assessment: Book review (essay)
Learning aim: Understanding of contemporary debates
Percentage: 30%
Deadline: Week 7

Assessment: Exam
Learning aim: Understanding of key concepts and theories (based on course readings)
Percentage: 30%
Deadline: Week 8 (20 December at 17:00)



Contact Information

Jan van der Ploeg Department of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology
Leiden University Email: Tel: 071-5273669

Weekly Overview

Week 1 Introduction: human development
Week 2 Planned interventions
Week 3 Equity & security
Week 4 Casus: Philippines
Week 5 Justice & sustainability
Week 6 Globalization & policy
Week 7 Presentations project proposals
Week 8 Exam

Preparation for first session