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

  • Wendy Olsen

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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Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Journal of Development Studies.

Volume (Year): 42 (2006)
Issue (Month): 7 ()
Pages: 1130-1157

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Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevst:v:42:y:2006:i:7:p:1130-1157
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