The History of Development

From Western Origins to Global Faith

Gilbert Rist
Translated by Patrick Camiller

Development Essentials Edition


A landmark work which both defined and transformed the field of development studies.

In this landmark text, Gilbert Rist provides a comprehensive and compelling overview of what the idea of development has meant throughout history. He traces it from its origins in the Western view of history, through the early stages of the world system, the rise of US hegemony, and the supposed triumph of third-worldism, through to new concerns about the environment and globalization.

Assessing possible postdevelopment models and considering the ecological dimensions of development, Rist contemplates the ways forward. Throughout, he argues persuasively that development has been no more than a collective delusion, which in reality has resulted only in widening market relations, whatever the intentions of its advocates.

A classic development text written by one of the leaders of postdevelopment theory.

Author Bio

Gilbert Rist is professor emeritus at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. He previously taught in Tunisia, and spent several years as director of the Centre Europe-Tiers Monde. His other publications include The Delusions of Economics (Zed 2011). The History of Development was his first book to be translated into English, and has also been published in Spanish and Italian.

Table of Contents

  • Preface to the Fourth Edition
  • Preface to the Third Edition
  • Preface to the Second Edition
  • Introduction
  • 1. Definitions of Development
  • 2. Metamorphoses of a Western Myth
  • 3. The Making of a World System
  • 4. The Invention of Development
  • 5. The International Doctrine and Institutions Take Root
  • 6. Modernization Poised between History and Prophecy
  • 7. The Periphery and the Understanding of History
  • 8. Self-reliance: The Communal Past as a Model for the Future
  • 9. The Triumph of Third-Worldism
  • 10. The Environment, or the New Nature of 'Development'
  • 11. A Mixture of Realism and Fine Sentiments
  • 12. Globalization as a Simulacrum of 'Development'
  • 13. From the Struggle against Poverty to the Millennium Development Goals
  • 14. The Great Turnaround?
  • 15. Beyond 'Development': From Downscaling to a Change in the Economic Paradigm
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index


'This is an impressive account of the rise and demise of the belief system that has pushed mankind to the brink of disaster.'
Wolfgang Sachs, author of The Development Dictionary and Fair Future

Praise for previous editions:

'If you want to understand the ideological forces that have shaped North-South relations for half a century, you need this remarkable book.'
Susan George

'Compelling and exciting reading ... Rist's book, written with deliciously mild irony, is an account of the most crucial moments in which the rites of a belief embraced by millions were elaborated and canonized.'
European Journal of Development Research

'This book does an outstanding job.'
Journal of Developing Areas

'This book is one of the most astute of its genre available today... exact in its scholarship and profound in its clear account of the philosophies and consequences of the Western example.'


Publication Date: 15 September 2019
320 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback 5th Edition: 9781786997562
Hardback 5th Edition: 9781786997555
eBook ePub 5th Edition: 9781786997579
eBook PDF 5th Edition: 9781786997586
eBook Kindle 5th Edition: 9781786997593
Library Edition 3rd Edition: 9781848131880

Previous Editions: Paperback 4th Edition: 9781783600229
Paperback 3rd Edition: 9781848131897
Paperback 2nd Edition: 9781842771815
Paperback 1st Edition: 9781856494922
Hardback 4th Edition: 9781783600236
eBook ePub 4th Edition: 9781783600250
eBook ePub 3rd Edition: 9781848136977
eBook PDF 4th Edition: 9781783600243
eBook PDF 3rd Edition: 9781848131903
eBook Kindle 4th Edition: 9781783600267
eBook Kindle 3rd Edition: 9781780326948
Library Edition 2nd Edition: 9781842771808
Library Edition 1st Edition: 9781856494915

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