Rethinking Development in Social Sciences: on the Threshold of an Ethical Turn

Rethinking Development in Social Sciences:
on the Threshold of an Ethical Turn

Semenenko I.S.,

Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia,

elibrary_id: 251670 | ORCID: 0000-0003-2529-9283 |

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2021.02.03

For citation:

Semenenko I.S. Rethinking Development in Social Sciences: on the Threshold of an Ethical Turn. – Polis. Political Studies. 2021. No. 2. P. 25-45. (In Russ.).


The shift to a new technological paradigm, alongside deep changes in mass perceptions and in cultural norms in societies confronting challenges to their security, is triggering radical social and political transformations. Researchers in the social sciences face a difficult dilemma: to use terms and categories that belong to a social time that is over, or to try and turn this page over to assess the ontological meanings of the transformations we are experiencing at a pace and in a space that are beyond our current vision. This latter choice would imply rethinking the meanings of development, politics of development, and political development, along with further categories used to describe social change such as nationalism, divided societies, or identity politics (to name but a few). The author proposes reconsidering development when seen as a primarily economic benchmark and instead to regard related policies as applicable to any society regardless of its economic and political standing. Political agency is considered to be the key to understanding political development and its dimensions. The state as a complex system of institutionalized social relations and political networks is at the heart of these changes: in times of crisis, the need to reevaluate its agency as a key crisis regulator becomes an important challenge both for political science and for policymakers. Trust, responsibility, and social solidarity are key values defining the feedback between society and the state: the author asserts their relevance in promoting a consistent development policy at the community level. Identity is a key resource for promoting development and for advancing these values both in elite and in mass social groups. The research draws upon a variety of sources related to the study of development politics in political research, including those produced by issue-related research groups and reproduced in survey data bases, and on the reflection of these topics in political discourse. “The New Zealand Project” is taken as an example of recourse to identity as a resource for development: the formation of a consistent development policy agenda is centered here on an inclusive national identity and on social issues important for a society sharing egalitarian visions and seeking to overcome deep social cleavages. The study of identity in a development context and the importance of value-based policy choices calls for an ethical turn in the social sciences and for a paradigm shift towards responsible development in policymaking. 

development, political development, development policy/politics, identity politics, trust, the individual, state, divided societies, cleavages, social studies, terms/categories in political analysis, ethical turn, development discourses, responsible development.


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Content No. 2, 2021

See also:

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Makarenko B.I.,
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Semenenko I.S.,
Horizons of Responsible Development: from Discourse to Governance. – Polis. Political Studies. 2019. No3

Mikhaylenok O.M., Nazarenko A.V.,
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The concept of identity: movement from the abstract to the concrete. – Polis. Political Studies. 2024. No3



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