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An Analysis of Participatory Communication for Development: A Social Construction Perspective
Unformatted Document Text:  Participatory Communication for Development 3 mode of production . . . [as] the terminal stage of a unilinear way of social evolution: A necessary and inevitable destiny” (p. 9). Implicit in the modernist perspective is the notion that undeveloped peoples must give up “primitive” or traditional ways of life and embrace more modern concepts. The modernist approach to development has been criticized on almost every front, from its ethnocentric assumptions that the Western model is the only path of development, to its economic model which presumes that economic growth will be equally and sufficiently distributed among all citizens. The most damning criticism of all is the reality that after twenty years of development guided by the modernist approach, “economic growth rates in developing countries were disappointing; in some cases there were even signs that poverty was increasing” (Gardner & Lewis, 1996, p. 15). Although criticism has led to other models of development, Scott warns that “despite its official demise, early modernization theory’s conceptual foundations continue to have pervasive power” (p. 39). Indeed, no other development paradigm has experienced such widespread acceptance. One of the reasons for this continued power is that there is no one alternative paradigm, but instead, there are a multiplicity of perspectives with slightly different foci. One popular notion that is common to many of the new approaches to development is that of participation in development. Both Participatory Action Research and the work of Paulo Freire have influenced contemporary development theories by providing key insights on participation at the grassroots level. Participatory Action Research Participatory Action Research (PAR) emerged in Latin and South America with strong roots in Marxist critiques, but with a central focus on grassroots level change. As with other post- modernization models, PAR arose in reaction to the failure of modernist approaches to social change and focused its attention on “confronting the existing social order and either transforming the social system or replacing existing social structures” (Friesen, 1999, p. 291). As such, PAR marked a transition from the modernist reliance on Western science to an approach which placed

Authors: Dare, Alexa.
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Participatory Communication for Development
3
mode of production . . . [as] the terminal stage of a unilinear way of social evolution: A necessary
and inevitable destiny” (p. 9). Implicit in the modernist perspective is the notion that undeveloped
peoples must give up “primitive” or traditional ways of life and embrace more modern concepts.
The modernist approach to development has been criticized on almost every front, from its
ethnocentric assumptions that the Western model is the only path of development, to its economic
model which presumes that economic growth will be equally and sufficiently distributed among all
citizens. The most damning criticism of all is the reality that after twenty years of development
guided by the modernist approach, “economic growth rates in developing countries were
disappointing; in some cases there were even signs that poverty was increasing” (Gardner & Lewis,
1996, p. 15). Although criticism has led to other models of development, Scott warns that “despite its
official demise, early modernization theory’s conceptual foundations continue to have pervasive
power” (p. 39). Indeed, no other development paradigm has experienced such widespread
acceptance. One of the reasons for this continued power is that there is no one alternative paradigm,
but instead, there are a multiplicity of perspectives with slightly different foci. One popular notion
that is common to many of the new approaches to development is that of participation in
development. Both Participatory Action Research and the work of Paulo Freire have influenced
contemporary development theories by providing key insights on participation at the grassroots level.
Participatory Action Research
Participatory Action Research (PAR) emerged in Latin and South America with strong roots
in Marxist critiques, but with a central focus on grassroots level change. As with other post-
modernization models, PAR arose in reaction to the failure of modernist approaches to social change
and focused its attention on “confronting the existing social order and either transforming the social
system or replacing existing social structures” (Friesen, 1999, p. 291). As such, PAR marked a
transition from the modernist reliance on Western science to an approach which placed


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