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An Analysis of Participatory Communication for Development: A Social Construction Perspective
Unformatted Document Text:  Participatory Communication for Development 2 practice of development continues to be employed on a global scale, and as such it remains an important element in global relations. The last thirty years have seen important changes in the way development work is theorized, although there is by no means one central development paradigm at this time. As new perspectives emerged from critiques of the original, modernist paradigm, several important issues were raised. One focus which has become popular within development studies is the desire for a more participatory approach to development. This study will look closely at the role of communication in this participatory approach to development, and will examine and evaluate current conceptions of participation from a social construction perspective. To situate this discussion of development, I will look first at the original development paradigm, at several alternative models which arose from the dissatisfaction with this modernist approach, and at the place of communication within these models. Theories of Development The Modernist Approach to Development Early assumptions about development were clearly rooted in the modernist tradition. To achieve development in undeveloped areas, particularly in the Third World, it was assumed that countries needed to move from their present state to a more “modern” one. A modern nation is one which has an industrial base, which makes use of the most advanced technology, and which strives for ever-increasing economic gains. Scott (1995) explains that this model supposes that “every country [is] following in the wake of the United States along a pre-determined series of stages” (p. 2). This model conceives of development in purely economic terms, and assumes that economic growth will lead to positive social changes. Even if the economic gains do not reach everyone, “the ‘trickle down effect’ will ensure that the riches of those at the top of the economic scale will eventually benefit the rest of society through increased production and thus employment” (Gardner & Lewis, 1996, p. 7). Esteva (1992) explains that the modernist model succeeded in defining “the industrial

Authors: Dare, Alexa.
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Participatory Communication for Development
2
practice of development continues to be employed on a global scale, and as such it remains an
important element in global relations.
The last thirty years have seen important changes in the way development work is theorized,
although there is by no means one central development paradigm at this time. As new perspectives
emerged from critiques of the original, modernist paradigm, several important issues were raised. One
focus which has become popular within development studies is the desire for a more participatory
approach to development. This study will look closely at the role of communication in this
participatory approach to development, and will examine and evaluate current conceptions of
participation from a social construction perspective. To situate this discussion of development, I will
look first at the original development paradigm, at several alternative models which arose from the
dissatisfaction with this modernist approach, and at the place of communication within these models.
Theories of Development
The Modernist Approach to Development
Early assumptions about development were clearly rooted in the modernist tradition. To
achieve development in undeveloped areas, particularly in the Third World, it was assumed that
countries needed to move from their present state to a more “modern” one. A modern nation is one
which has an industrial base, which makes use of the most advanced technology, and which strives
for ever-increasing economic gains. Scott (1995) explains that this model supposes that “every
country [is] following in the wake of the United States along a pre-determined series of stages” (p. 2).
This model conceives of development in purely economic terms, and assumes that economic growth
will lead to positive social changes. Even if the economic gains do not reach everyone, “the ‘trickle
down effect’ will ensure that the riches of those at the top of the economic scale will eventually
benefit the rest of society through increased production and thus employment” (Gardner & Lewis,
1996, p. 7). Esteva (1992) explains that the modernist model succeeded in defining “the industrial


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