Religion in International Politics and Development

Religion in International Politics and Development

The World Bank and Faith Institutions

John A. Rees

This unique and fascinating book illustrates that in moving the research agenda forward – despite whatever methodological pitfalls that may await in the attempt – the dynamics of religion must now be considered to be of central and abiding importance in the study of world politics.

Chapter 3: Religion and the Discourse of Development

John A. Rees

Subjects: development studies, development studies, politics and public policy, international relations


When I feed the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist. Dom Helder Camara, Archbishop of Recife, Brazil (1968) Religion is like a cow. It kicks, but it also gives milk. Ramakrishna (quoted by Arvind Sharma in Tyndale, 2006, p. xiv) 3.1 INTRODUCTION The dynamics of religion model could arguably be applied in multiple contexts in world politics. In the present chapter the phrase ‘dynamics of religion’ refers to the primary and secondary impacts of religion upon different theories that scholars and practitioners have constructed in the field of international development. The phrase also attests to the role that religious actors and interests play in the dynamics of development that these scholars and practitioners observe. Each emphasis is a component of what is meant by the term ‘discourse’. The present chapter summarizes two contrasting schools of development theory and practice of development and reorganizes these approaches using the dynamics of religion model. Such modelling thus situates religion at the discourse level of development and anticipates important issues to be explored at the institutional and policy level in the chapters that follow. 3.2 THE DISCOURSE OF DEVELOPMENT Development is a highly contested term ‘concerning how “developing countries” can improve their living standards and eliminate absolute poverty’ (Kingsbury, 2004, p. 1). Development in practice is constituted by a broad range of priorities from crisis relief to long-term reconstruction, from environmental sustainability to gender empowerment, from good governance at the...

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