Bridging the Gulf between Development Theory and Innovation Theory: the Imperative of Relational Justice

Papaioannou, Theo (2023). Bridging the Gulf between Development Theory and Innovation Theory: the Imperative of Relational Justice. In: DSA2023: Development Studies Association Annual Conference 2023: Crisis in the Anthropocene - Rethinking Connection and Agency for Development, 28-30 Jun 2023, University of Reading.


Phenomena of global development and technological innovation have been approached from two distinct theoretical perspectives. The first is the perspective of long-term social, political, economic, and technological transformations. The second perspective is short-term entrepreneurial activity that combines technological forces to create novelty, often destroying old ways of doing things i.e., the so-called ‘creative destruction’. Both structure and agency are interrelated perspectives, producing the evolutionary common ground of development and innovation theories. However, apart from this common ground, there is a gulf that needs to be bridged. In several respects, development theory is preoccupied with social values such as inclusion and equality whereas innovation theory is preoccupied with economic values of economic growth and maximisation of aggregate utility. This gulf of competing values underpins public policies which are unable to deal with modern day crises such as poverty, inequality, environmental degradation, and unsustainable development. I argue that the gulf between development and innovation theories can be critically re-thought and permanently bridged using a relational notion of social justice that can allow inclusion/equality to be affirmed without disincentivising growth/utility. Such a notion of social justice should be only concerned with equalising resources in as long as this eliminates hierarchies, oppression, and domination in globalised societies.

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