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What is development sociology?

Development sociology does not offer blueprint solutions for problems linked to development. However, it provides training that enables students to understand and explore the theoretical and practical dimensions of development issues. In our understanding, development goes beyond poverty reduction, conflict prevention, and the sustainable use of natural resources. Next to these goals, development also implies social change, the transformation of norms and values and the introduction of new social, economic, and political structures. These are the key concerns of sociological research into development processes. Since its inception as an academic discipline, sociology was committed to elucidating questions as to the nature, conditions and possibilities of social change. Moreover, contemporary processes of transformation in Europe remind us that development sociology cannot be reduced to the study of “developing countries” but needs to include industrialized countries as well.

Development sociology comprises three key components:

  • The sociology of processes of development explores patterns of social change with a view towards the emergence of modern societies, the inner transformation of modern societies as well as forms of deferred or blocked modernization.
  • The sociology of developing countries focuses on the sociological analysis of the societies of developing nations in different social spheres (e.g. family sociology, educational sociology, political sociology, sociology of organizations, religion etc.) as well as the specific shape of processes of development.
  • The sociology of development policies and politics examines concepts, political programmes as well as state and non-state institutions and practices and their consequences.

In all of these three components, development sociology pursues both analytical-theoretical as well as practical-political concerns. On a conceptual level, development sociology contributes to comparative studies of societies and institutions and develops theories of social change. On practical and political levels, research in development sociology can form the basis for development policies and their implementation. Conceptually, development sociology is a sub-discipline of sociology. Simultaneously, it is part of the interdisciplinary field of development studies (including economics, political science, geography, anthropology etc.).

At the University of Bayreuth, courses in development sociology are offered mainly for the MA and BA programmes “Applied African Studies, Culture and Society in Africa”.


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