In This Article Social Development

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works and Definition
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Historical Development
  • Theoretical Approaches

Social Work Social Development
James Midgley, Samantha Fitzgerald, Sirojudin Sirojudin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 June 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0169


This article provides key references for the field of social development, including history, theory, and intervention strategies. The distinctive feature of social development is an emphasis on interventions that are directly linked to a wider and multifaceted development process designed to raise the standard of living for all. The process emphasizes the importance of productive social investments. Although historically social development emerged in developing countries, it has now become known and implemented in industrialized countries as well. Many features of social development are relevant for social work scholars and practitioners. The literature resources highlighted here illustrate many different specific goals and intervention strategies geared toward the enhancement of people’s well-being. They include—but are not limited to—investment in human and social capital, microenterprises, asset building, social protection, community organizing and development, social entrepreneurship, women’s participation, cooperatives, and macrolevel policies.

General Overviews

Several books and articles provide a helpful overview of the field of social development, encompassing comparative welfare state analysis (Kwon 2005), international development practice (Hall 2007), and international social work strategies (Cox and Pawar 2006). Others, such as Midgley 1999 and Hall and Midgley 2004, offer general conceptual arguments for social development. In addition, Pawar and Cox 2010 highlights some critical themes and the practical relevance of social development in social work practice.

  • Cox, David R., and Manohar S. Pawar. 2006. International social work: Issues, strategies and programs. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    This book contextualizes social development as a focus in international social work similar to other elements of international social work practice, such as human rights, ecology, and globalization. The book also provides examples of international social work practice applying the social development perspective.

  • Hall, Anthony. 2007. Social policies in the World Bank: Paradigms and challenges. Global Social Policy 7.2: 151–175.

    DOI: 10.1177/1468018107078160E-mail Citation »

    This article examines the social policy initiatives adopted by the World Bank, one of the most important international development agencies. The Bank is currently transforming its agenda from previously separating social welfare from economic development toward a holistic and integrative vision of social development. It also identifies some challenges resulting from this transformation.

  • Hall, Anthony, and James Midgley. 2004. Social policy for development. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    The authors demonstrate how social development informs social policy in the development context. The book highlights a core argument of social development: social policy contributes to the promotion of human welfare and economic development. Topics covered include poverty and inequality, rural development, basic education, health services, social security, social work and human services, and international development cooperation.

  • Kwon, Huck-Ju. 2005. Transforming the developmental welfare state in East Asia. Development and Change 36.3: 477–497.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0012-155X.2005.00420.xE-mail Citation »

    The article provides a case example of the developmental welfare state in East Asia. It reviews key principles of welfare developmentalism and explains the contribution of developmental social policy to the contemporary economic performance of the Republic of Korea and Taiwan. It rejects neo-liberal assumptions that challenge the role of welfare in economic development.

  • Midgley, James. 1999. Growth, redistribution, and welfare: Toward social investment. Social Service Review 73.1: 3–21.

    DOI: 10.1086/515795E-mail Citation »

    This article makes a case for social development as an alternative to the neoliberal view (i.e., government social programs harm the economy) of welfare. Instead of being narrowly redistributive, social programs can and should be introduced as productive social investments that enhance economic participation and contribute positively to development.

  • Pawar, Manohar S., and David R. Cox, eds. 2010. Social development: Critical themes and perspectives. New York: Routledge.

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    The book highlights some critical themes in social development and in contemporary social work practice in developing countries. The first part discusses conceptual approaches to social development. The second part examines critical community-based perspectives such as participation, self-reliance, and capacity building. Ethical issues and the prospects of social development are also addressed.

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