On the Causal Powers of Development Policies and Plans

Categories: Qualitative

I am interested in starting a conversation on the role of development policies/ plans in social transformation processes. This idea is based on the fact that critical realist philosophy is based largely on ontological issues, in particular, with analyzing the causal powers of the social mechanisms which make the existence of certain social realities possible.

From the critical realist conceptualization perspective, it could be stated that the understanding of the nature of social conditions in a region implies, to a large extent, understanding the nature of the underlying social mechanisms such as national/ regional/sectoral development policies and plans etc. Our development policies and plans have the causal powers to generate certain qualitatively new outcomes in society. The variables that we include or exclude in our development policies and plans thus matter a great deal.

Development policies and plans based on chaotic conception tend to leave out certain necessary variables or include certain non-essential variables to satisfy certain sectional interests. The outcomes of such distorted policies and plans can only add to the existing development problems in the form of increased inequalities in living conditions, increased social unrest, increased environmental problems and increased complaints from the public.

What are the conditions which have created development problems, civil unrest and other unfavourable situations in various countries and localities in recent decades? The answer can, to a large extent, be found in the nature of the underlying policies, plans and programmes that have emanated from the offices of those with political power to formulate and see to the implementation of specific development policies and plans.

My evaluation of the nature of various development policies and plans in a number of communities in various African countries have highlighted the extent to which social mechanisms (development policies and plans) have created major positive and negative impacts in the lives of people. I would like members of Methodspace to provide their own examples to support the idea that the nature of development policies and plans matters a great deal. The core of the philosophy of critical realism is the study of the nature of social mechanisms. Development policies and plans represent an important element of these mechanisms.