What Is Development Discourse?

G. Wiesen

Development discourse is a fairly specific facet of communication dealing with the progress of countries and societies as it is described and related through conversation. In other words, this discipline addresses the way that people talk about development on some level, usually in a political or sociological manner. As a general statement, development discourse refers to the process of communication that occurs when two or more people talk about how a country or region is progressing. The term is often used, however, to more specifically refer to the language and terminology used to discuss these things, and how that communication may or may not be effective.

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

There are a few different ways in which this type of discourse can be approached, even though it is often used to analyze and consider forms of meta-communication. The term “meta” is often used to refer to a process that evaluates or refers to itself in some way. This means that “meta-communication” is effectively “communication about communication” or the language used to analyze how people discuss ideas and talk to each other. Development discourse specifically deals with the terminology involved in conversations regarding how regions or countries develop and handle progress toward greater success and productivity.

Politicians often engage in development discourse, both in regard to issues of domestic importance and global problems or triumphs that may arise. For example, the analysis and discussion among political leaders or financial planners of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is often used as a method of communicating about that nation’s progress or growth. These types of conversations are a form of development discourse as these individuals communicate about the changes that occur to indicate how well a region is moving forward. Much like other forms of discourse, however, this can include false or misleading information and politicians sometimes approach a conversation or debate with a particular agenda.

One of the most important elements of this type of discourse, from a scholarly perspective, is the way in which certain terminology and language is used. Expressions such as “fragile state” and “good governance” are often coined and used as a way in which failure or progress can be discussed in language that does not immediately convey meaning. This allows people to more easily engage in development discourse in a way that expresses a particular perspective but does not betray a deeper meaning. Political analysts and scholars often deconstruct this type of lingo or terminology to determine the real meaning of a phrase, and to allow others to better understand what is said.

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