What is development? In some respects, this question is related to philosophical debates of what constitutes the good life and dates back at least to the ancient Greeks. It is not the purpose of this chapter to provide an intellectual history of moral and political philosophy from the ancients onwards, or to espouse and defend any fully elaborated conception of the good life. Instead, this chapter identifies some prominent strands in post-war debates over the ends of development.1
Development has been historically associated with wealth, in other words, the richest countries would be viewed as more developed than poor ones. Under this conception, wealth is measured by a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) or gross national income (GNI) These measures indicate the total amount of resources a country has, and allows us to compare the size of countries’ economies. For instance, the United States and China are the largest economies in the world if measured by their GDPs.2
The GDP alone is not enough to classify countries as developed or developing, however. The aggregate level of wealth in a country can be a significant amount of money or not, depending on the size of its population. For instance, China is the second largest economy in the world, after the United States. Current predictions indicate that China is likely to surpass the United States in the next few years, becoming then the largest economy in the world. However, if we divide the GDP of each country by...
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