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Power and social justice in community development: Improving 'government towards development'

Sweetingham, Sarah (2014) Power and social justice in community development: Improving 'government towards development'. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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Whilst there exists a strong academic tradition regarding the importance of critique and reflexivity within community development theory, it is evident that the vast majority of the critical examination undertaken constitutes internal, methodological critiques of specific aspects of community development practice. This thesis sets about critically examining the theory of community development in its entirety, through an identification and comparison of the field’s core tenets and principles by way of a review of the prominent literature. Through this examination, two key issues will be identified. The first is that, partly due to conceptual unclarity, community development has the potential to place the responsibility for rectifying inequality unjustly. The second is that community development theory generally seems to reflect an inadequate understanding of the concept of power. Born out of this critique will be some further analysis, designed to propose some potential ways in which to address the issues identified. It is argued that community development should strive to model community involvement specifically within a framework of social justice, through the adoption of a rights-based approach, as well as attempt to incorporate a more complex, Foucouldian conception of power into its core theorising. It is further proposed that community development must overtly recognise that it, as a discipline, constitutes a form of government. Finally, the thesis advocates for a shift in community participation, away from a simple involvement in decision making, towards processes which act to challenge the dominant discourses and political rationalities which serve to perpetuate inequality.

Publication Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Supervisor: Hutchinson, Jane
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