Cover Page


For Mjriam

The Struggle for Development

Benjamin Selwyn


Preface and Acknowledgements

This book contributes to development thinking, policy and practice in two ways. The vast majority of development literature and policy analyses are based upon elitist conceptions of social change, where states and corporations are identified as primary development actors. This book, by contrast, views social change from the bottom up. Its first contribution is to conceptualise development from the perspective of labouring classes. Doing so provides an answer to the puzzle of expanding (and highly concentrated) wealth in a sea of global poverty. Secondly, it contends that collective actions by labouring classes, far from undermining development, which is how elite conceptions of social change portray them, generate real human development. Once this two-part argument is grasped, then the project of seeking to engender human development assumes a new perspective.

Some of the chapters in this book draw upon and develop arguments previously published. Part of chapter 3 was published as a Centre for Global Political Economy working paper (no. 10, 2016). Parts of chapters 4 and 5 were published in Third World Quarterly (both vol. 7, 2016).

In writing this book I have incurred many intellectual debts. First and foremost, my colleagues in the Historical Materialism World Development Research Seminar (HMWDRS) continue to provide the most stimulating forum within which to collectively understand and apply Marxist political economy to contemporary capitalism. Over the years HMWDRS has included Liam Campling, Satoshi Miyamura, Jon Pattenden, Gavin Capps, Elena Baglioni, Owen Miller, Alessandra Mezzadri, Sam Ashman, Helena Pérez Niño, Demet Dinler, Jeff Webber, Penny Howard and Kristian Lasslett.

Many people have read parts of this book and/or discussed it with me and in the process have suggested improvements. They include Tom Selwyn, Andy Sumner, Thomas Pogge, David Woodward, Luke Martell, Adam Fishwick, Felipe Antunes, Lucia Pradella, Ray Kiely, Mary Mellor, Siobhán McGrath, John Minns, Leslie Sklair, Peter Newell, Tom Marois, David Ockwell, Julian Germann, Sam Knafo, Earl Gammon, Andreas Bieler, Kalpana Wilson, Feyzi Ismail, Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Carlos Oya, Tony Norfield, Paul Cammack and Juanita Elias.

I am truly lucky to work alongside wonderful colleagues in the Department of International Relations and in the Centre for Global Political Economy (CGPE) at the University of Sussex. Rorden Wilkinson and Andrea Cornwall, as head of department and head of school respectively, deserve special thanks as they have worked extra hard to generate creative time and space for colleagues to pursue their research. Students at Sussex, at undergraduate, MA and PhD level, are simply marvellous and have, over the years, provided much critical stimulation to my thinking about global development.

I am deeply indebted to four brilliant thinkers who, knowingly or not, helped me construct my intellectual foundations. These are Henry Bernstein, Chris Harman, Ellen Meiksins Wood and Michael Lebowitz.

I am very grateful to John Minns, director of the Australian National Centre for Latin American Studies (ANCLAS) at the Australian National University, who made it possible for me to spend six fantastic weeks conducting research and writing at the centre in late 2015.

I thank Louise Knight, Nekane Tanaka Galdos, Clare Ansell, Caroline Richmond and David Held at Polity for supporting this project.

Our daughter Valentina has provided continuous entertainment over the last three years. Most profoundly, I thank my wife Mjriam, who supported me all the way through this and previous labours, and who has always pushed me to explain my ideas with more clarity. To her I dedicate this book.

‘The great are only great because we are on our knees. Let us rise up.’

Louis-Marie Prudhomme, Révolutions de Paris