Participatory Development in South Africa: A Development Management Perspective

Monday, 24 October, 2005 - 08:56

Participatory Development in South Africa: A Development Management Perspective.Editors: Ismail Davids, Francois Theron & Kealeboga MaphunyePublisher: Van Schaik PublishersDate Published: 2005Revi

Participatory Development in South Africa: A Development Management Perspective.

Editors: Ismail Davids, Francois Theron & Kealeboga Maphunye

Publisher: Van Schaik Publishers

Date Published: 2005

Reviewed by: Mohamed Motala, Area Head and Lecturer: Public Policy and Governance, Graduate School of Public and Development Management, University of the Witwatersrand 

Development management as a discipline and profession has received attention from various writers and from different perspectives, and, like development itself has had various levels of acceptance and success. Within this very undefined and open ended area of practice and research i.e., management and development, this book presents us with some building blocks to begin understanding and assisting those working in development management in South Africa. Indeed the authors do have a very extensive and involved, if not historically long, polity from which to choose their examples to write from.

This book is more of a text book of sorts rather than a literary piece and in this way not critical, reflective or openly opinionated. Filled with clear definitions of the concepts we take for granted, explanations of their use and how they came to be so pervasive in the last ten years of South Africa’s democracy, is where this book is most useful. Indeed, a visitor or student from another country would find it very useful in locating and understanding some of South Africa’s current languages to development.

Given the elusive nature of the double edged subject at hand, development and management, what’s in and what’s out becomes the authors’ and editors’ prerogative and the reader will not find the be all and end all, in such a publication. S/he would most likely find useful definitions and in this way a version of the truth that is mostly accepted and not contested.

The result of trying to produce an accessible book is sometimes quite simplistic explanations of very complex issues. The book begins by contextualizing development within development theory and as a professional discipline. It travels the road from neo Marxist interpretations of merchant capitalism, colonialism, dependency theory to humanist and people centred approaches to contemporary development understandings. The management route travelled is shorter, from development administration to development management. The contextualization concludes with explaining the different perspectives on poverty.

The next section looks at the public, private and civil society sectors and their contribution to setting and implementing the development agenda. Within civil society it remains with the established very formally organized structures of NGOs, international development agencies and trade unions. It leaves out the more politicized advocacy oriented community based organizations and popular movements that are today at the forefront of challenging current approaches to development policy.

Section three focuses on micro level interventions and approaches that characterise South Africa’s intervention in the second economy without giving any commentary as to the impact of this approach. Its acceptance is based on the humanist people centred approach favoured overall in the book. Finally, the last section focuses on research and writing with some useful frameworks within which to do this.

One of the challenges in presenting a book like this is its shelf life as it is overtaken rapidly by the changing events and policies that it tries to present. Another is that development is never value free and a highly politicized terrain, so developing an approach around critical thinking is the most useful approach that allows one to build scholarly inquiry and an understanding of the issues. This it does in the contextualizing of the problem of development, but fails to carry through in the proposed management approaches to development where explanations for the context of development are derived from international macro economic frameworks, whilst the solutions are localized and in individual behaviours and values. This is not a post 1994 development reader for an academic scholar of the development management discourse but rather a chronology of post 1994 development management language definitions for the South African student.

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