Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Title

The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Theory



Publisher Name

Palgrave Macmillan

Publisher Location

New York, NY


This chapter explores recent research by critical theorists concerning theories of (under)development. Drawing from the research of Thomas McCarthy, Axel Honneth, Jurgen Habermas, Amy Allen, Nancy Fraser, and others, the author explores some of the divergent responses critical theorists have given toward the theory and practice of global developmental assistance. Some theorists defending a strong modernist approach to development (e.g., McCarthy, Habermas and Honneth) appear to endorse a logic of development that works within a domesticated model of capitalist markets and lending practices; others (Allen and Fraser) reject this approach. The chapter raises questions about how development that fits within the traditional emancipatory aim of critical theory must also be (democratically?) empowering. Finally, it raises deeper philosophical questions about whether such a critical theory of development must or should instantiate a concept of progress and whether progress so construed should be interpreted principally in terms of expanding freedom (emancipation and empowerment) or simply expanding social welfare opportunity.


Author Posting © The Author, 2017. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Palgrave Macmillan for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Michael J. Thompson's The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Theory, pp. 677-696, January 2017.

Included in

Philosophy Commons