Denis Goulet and the project of development ethics: Choices in Methodology, Focus and Organization

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Denis Goulet (1931-2006) was a pioneer of human development theory and
the main founder of work on “development ethics” as a self-conscious field
that, by his definition, treats the ethical and value questions posed by
development theory, planning, and practice. The paper looks at aspects of
Goulet’s work in relation to four issues concerning the project of development
ethics—[1] scope, [2] methodology, [3] roles, [4] organisational format and
identity. It compares his views with subsequent trends in the field and suggests
lessons for work on human development. [1] Goulet’s definition of the scope of
development ethics remains serviceable and allows us to combine a view of it as
social change ethics (including global change ethics) with yet a relatively specific
primary audience of those who recognize themselves as working in development
studies or development policy. [2] His approach in development ethics espoused
intense existential immersion in each context and was often deeply illuminating,
but was limited by the time and skills it requires and its relative disconnection
from communicable theory. [3] Goulet wrote profoundly about ethics’ possible
lines of influence, through prophetic force and more routinely through
incorporation in methods, movements, and education. His own ideas did not
become sufficiently embodied in methods and methodologies, but some have
become so thanks to other authors. [4] Goulet saw development ethics as a
new discipline or subdiscipline. However the required types of immersion, in
particular contexts and/or in understanding and changing the methods and
systems that structure routine practice, have to be undertaken by people
coming from and remaining close to diverse disciplinary and professional
backgrounds. Development ethics is and has to be, he gradually came to
accept, not a distinct subdiscipline but an interdisciplinary field.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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