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"Economic definitions and ways of measuring development are unsatisfactory. A much clearer and
more useful picture emerges when wider social factors are included". Assess this view of
development and underdevelopment.
Most definitions of development hang onto the same notion that whatever `development' entails it is a
`good change'. Good change is usually seen as some kind of economic growth but development can
also be on a social level.
Economic definitions revolve around GDP and that this measurement is often regarded as simplistic.
The UN produces its own HDI figures which attempt to move beyond the use of GDP.
2) Economic Definitions
The economic definitions of development and a country's economic label has changed throughout
Industrialisation is seen as a key indicator of development and statistics like GDP are used to see if the
population have material similarities. For instance, for most periods of society, economists have looked
at the economic sphere as the dominant one when it comes to development.
Economic definitions include terms such as: the `First World' (the West), `Second World' (communist
countries) and `Third World' (the developing world) or the `North' (the industrialised world) and the
`South' (the developing world).
Economic definitions is that they ignore social factors such as human rights, healthcare, life expectancy.
The situation is therefore complicated by the diversity of economic and social progress found in the
developing world today. For example, some sociologists have identified four broad groups of societies
which make up a hierarchical global stratification system: more economically developed countries,
newly industrialised countries, less economically developed countries and least economically developed
+ These terms have now come into more general sociological use
They give the impression that batches of countries experience economic and social problems in a
Amartya Sen argued that development should be about freedom rather than economic definitions.
3) Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
Economic growth is dependent on a change from an economy based on food farming to factories which
would include import/ export goods.
There are a few economic measures of determining development and underdevelopment and one of
these is using the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
The GDP is the total of all wages paid out within one country in one year. It measures the economic
wellbeing of a country.
+ It gives a ballpark figure for development
+ It generally sorts the wealthier countries to most developed to least developed
The sole reliance of GDP to measure a countries development progress can be criticised as it does not
cover social issues (for example, a rise in GDP does not mean that education is improving).
GDP reflects Western values and assumes that materialism is good.
GDP does not take into account of the sustainability of the future GDP. For instance, if a forest is cut down
one year it will add to the country's GDP but reduces the chances the economy can have the same
performance in future years.
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4) GDP (nominal) per capita
This is the GDP per person in a country in a year. You take the GDP of the country and divide it by the
+ Using this method is useful as it considers the population size which would otherwise mean that bigger
countries, such as China, would have a higher GDP.
+ GDP (nominal) per capita is seen as a measure of standard of living.…read more
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8) The Human Development Index (HDI)
One measure of social factors that measure development is the Human Development Index (HDI) which
attempts to include data that looks at social factors like life expectancy and mean years of schooling.
The HDI categorises human development and scores countries between 0 and 1 (with 1 being the
best). For example, in 2007 Iceland ranked the highest with 0.968 and the lowest was Sierra Leone with