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Social development: Critical themes and perspectives edited by Manohar S. Pawar and David R. Cox , Routledge , New York , 2010 , xiii + 260 pp., paper $40.00 (ISBN 9780415811002)

This book offers a thorough analysis of social development in all its ramifications. The introductory chapter recalls the climax period of social development impetus in the mid-1990s, when the UN World Summit, held in Copenhagen, resulted in the Millennium Development Goals. In spite of some significant success stories, however, social development failed in global terms mainly because the focus shifted to burning issues of the day such as climate change, uncontrolled global financial markets, terrorism, and social conflicts. Consequently, social development was pushed much lower down on the agenda. The editors, who are also the authors of the major part of the book, are confident that comprehensive social development was not a mere utopian dream but a practical proposition. They make a strong plea for its wide acceptance to solve global problems.

In Part I (comprising Chapters Two and Three), the authors present their conceptual understanding of the phrase “social development” and trace its evolution. Social development implies multi-level, multi-dimensional, inclusive improvement in social conditions, secured through ideologically-oriented efforts. In the colonial period, social development was a self-benefiting exercise of colonial powers based on exploitation of the people they ruled over. Later, the UN played a key role in social development, aiming at the enhancement of life through satisfaction of material needs based on values of social justice, welfare, empowerment of the disadvantaged, and very importantly, sustenance of ecology. Part II (Chapters Four to Nine) deals with critical perspectives in social development. Chapter Four discusses participatory people-oriented development. Chapter Five offers a framework for self-reliance in local level development and examines it in relation to human need, human rights, collective reliance, and people's participation. Chapter Six is an overview of community capacity building and Chapter Seven relates to building partnerships, an aspect not adequately discussed in current literature. Chapter Eight discusses the problem of trained workers required for social welfare work and the provision of facilities for their training at a suitable place. Chapter Nine deals with the alleviation of poverty, which is not only economic deprivation but also personal, physical, social, cultural, and political deprivation. In Part III, Chapter 10 deals with ethical issues of social development and refers to hedonic and eudaimonic notions of well being, implying different approaches to development.

Part IV, Chapter 11, on new social development, offers a unique masterpiece of scholarship by the celebrated author, Brij Mohan. The emphasis is on the need to remain open to new understandings and approaches. The author suggests a new social development paradigm. Chapter 12 is mainly a review of earlier chapters and suggestions to be implemented in future.

The book is a remarkable in-depth study of all aspects of social development. With its references at the end of each chapter and a most exhaustive 20 page index at the end of the book, it can serve as an excellent source book. It is a valuable handbook for the guidance of development managers, teachers, and framers of policy, and a textbook for students of undergraduate and higher degree courses. The book, broad and international in scope, is undoubtedly a highly valuable addition to literature on the subject of social development.