Insiders and Outsiders in International Development


  • David A. Crocker

    1. has been a visiting professor at the Universities of Munich and Costa Rica. He is the author of Praxis and Democratic Socialism: The Critical Social Theory of Markovic and Stojanovic (1983). “Toward Development Ethics” is forthcoming in World Development. His work in progress includes two books, A Good Development: Essays in International Development Ethics and The Costa Rican Path and Central American Development. He is a founding member and present coordinator of the International Development Ethics Association (IDEA). Jemold D. Green k Directorof the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the
    Search for more papers by this author

  • 1

    The present essay is a revised and expanded English version of David A. Crocker, “Participantes internes y externos en la ética del desarrollo internacional,”Revista de la Universidad Autónoma de Yucatan, special edition (February 1990), pp. 57–71. Earlier versions of the paper were given at the V Congreso Centroameri-cano de Filosofia, San Jose, Costa Rica, May 8–12,1989; the Second International Conference on Ethics and Development, Universidad Autdnomade Yucatan, July 3–8,1989; and the Departments of Philosophy of the University of Florida and Colorado State University in March 1990. I have benefitted from comments by Jann Benson, Cynthia Botteron, David Freeman, Lyanda Haupt, Michael Losonsky, Ofelia Schutte, and Jerome M. Segal.


International development ethics is moral reflection on the ends and means of societal and global change. Who should engage in this activity and how should it be done? Should only citizens of a given nation reflect on, and morally evaluate, that country's development goals and strategies? Or do foreigners have a contribution to make as well? Crocker answers these questions by first briefly discussing and critiquing the context within which these questions are frequently debated, namely the ethnocentrism/anti-ethnocentrism and particularism/universalism controversies. He explains the distinction between social insiders and outsiders arguing that in development ethics there are advantages and disadvantages to being both. He urges development ethicists to cultivate a mixture of insider/outsider perspectives, beginning and ending in their own groups, but learning from and benefitting others in the process. Crocker concludes that international and regional progress are closely interrelated. Universalists and ethnocentrists must converge to “think and act globally, regionally, nationally, and locally.”