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Still trying to save the world?: A critical analysis of the approach of Oxfam Community Aid Abroad to the challenge of international development

Pettitt, Brad (2002) Still trying to save the world?: A critical analysis of the approach of Oxfam Community Aid Abroad to the challenge of international development. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Community Aid Abroad, now called Oxfam Community Aid Abroad (OCAA), is an Australian-based development NGO which has been pursuing international development for almost 50 years. Yet, as it approaches its 50th birthday, the practical and philosophical challenges facing it and other development NGOs are more complex and daunting than they have ever been. The purpose of this thesis is to contribute to a process of sustained reflection by OCAA practitioners on the purpose and philosophical basis of development in an increasingly globalised world. Its particular focus is the questioning of the Enlightenment framework that underlies the development project. This questioning arises out of the multi-dimensional crises of modernisation: deepening inequality. environmental unsustainability, cultural conflict, and opposition to Western concepts of human rights. Its central theme is that whilst OCAA should continue to work for human rights, sustainability and community development, it should do so within a post-Enlightenment framework. The critical stance of this framework would furnish OCAA with the resources it requires to constructively address the challenges of modernity.

Following a brief overview of OCAA's development agenda over the past decade, a review of the wider debates over the idea of development, from postwar 'modernisation theory' to concepts of 'post-development' is presented. The dominant philosophical debates concerning the Enlightenment project, which underpin development debates, are then outlined. The second part of the thesis explores what a more critical 'post- Enlightenment' philosophical vision would entail for OCAA's development agenda, specifically in relation to human rights. environment, advocacy and globalisation. It concludes with the hope that OCAA will continue 'trying to save the world', yet that it will also reflect more deeply and critically about the philosophical foundations of development. Hopefully this thesis will help to encourage both OCAA's development practice and processes of critical reflection.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Barns, Ian
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