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Pluralism, poverty and sharecropping: Cultivating open-mindedness in development studies

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  • Wendy Olsen

Abstract

Pluralism adds depth to the mixing of methods in development studies. Global society has both structure and complexity, and agents within society actively promote competing ways of describing and interpreting that society. Theoretical pluralism offers a way for social scientists to describe and judge the competing theories about a given social situation. (Methodological pluralism is also discussed in this paper.) An example - tenancy in India - is explored to illustrate how pluralists compare theories. The tenancy literature includes neoclassical, institutionalist, and Marxist theories. These cut across three academic disciplines. Pluralist research is often interdisciplinary in such ways. Such interdisciplinary research generates a dialogue across epistemological chasms and across theories that have different underlying assumptions. Pluralist research can be valued for its discursive bridging function. Pluralist research can also contribute to improvements in scientific measurement. Divergent schools of thought can be brought into contact by reconceptualising the objects of research, such as contracts or coercion. In the tenancy literature, alternative ways of measuring and interpreting power arose. Structuralist approaches tended to assume poverty and inequality as part of the context within which economic action takes place. Strengths and weaknesses of such assumptions are examined. The approach recommended here, which is realist, makes possible an improved dialogue about policy changes aimed at poverty reduction.

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  • Wendy Olsen, 2006. "Pluralism, poverty and sharecropping: Cultivating open-mindedness in development studies," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(7), pages 1130-1157.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevst:v:42:y:2006:i:7:p:1130-1157
    DOI: 10.1080/00220380600884076
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    Cited by:

    1. Patrick Maravic, 2012. "Limits of knowing or the consequences of difficult-access problems for multi-method research and public policy," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 45(2), pages 153-168, June.
    2. Laura Camfield & Gina Crivello & Martin Woodhead, 2009. "Wellbeing Research in Developing Countries: Reviewing the Role of Qualitative Methods," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 90(1), pages 5-31, January.
    3. Hong Bo & Ciaran Driver, 2012. "Agency Theory, Corporate Governance and Finance," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics and Theory of the Firm, chapter 11 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Foran, Tira & Butler, James R.A. & Williams, Liana J. & Wanjura, Wolf J. & Hall, Andy & Carter, Lucy & Carberry, Peter S., 2014. "Taking Complexity in Food Systems Seriously: An Interdisciplinary Analysis," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 85-101.

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