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Making sense of territorial pathways to rural development: a proposal for a normative and analytical framework

(University of Antwerp, 2015)

Written by: Pierre Merlet, Johan Bastiaensen, Marc Craps, Tom De Herdt, Selmira Flores, Frédéric Huybrechs, René Mendoza, Griet Steel, Gert Van Hecken

Writing date: April 2015

Organizations: University of Antwerp

Type of document: Scientific article

Summary

This paper proposes a normative and an analytical framework for an actor-oriented conceptualization of the development of rural territories with the aim to inform practitioners’ interventions. For the latter, we stress the need for a more realistic and modest positioning vis-à-vis the endogenous strategies of interacting actors in the rural territories. Our normative framework draws on a relational elaboration of Sen’s human capabilities approach. We adopt an ethical individualism (each individual’s well-being is the criterion for development), but reject methodological individualism (well-being of individuals depends mainly on their own efforts). We argue that power-laden social relations determine outcomes in the multiple political arenas which will open or close collective development pathways upon which the (non)realization of people’s desired livelihood trajectories depend. In the second part, we develop an analytical framework that allows us to interpret the emergence of such development pathways in rural territories, which we conceptualize as complex socio-ecological systems with dispersed polycentric governance. For the elaboration of this framework, we draw creatively on insights from the sustainable livelihood framework, development sociology, critical institutionalism, social capital theory, the legal pluralism perspective, the critique of participation and the Latin American territorial rural development (DTR) approach. We also compare our proposal, which is more developed from the perspective of non-governmental development actors, which the public policy perspective of the DTR.

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