Journal Article


Business, State and Society: Changing Perspectives, Roles and Approaches

Published on 25 May 2015

The debate on the role of business and markets in development has a long history, marked by divergent and strongly held perspectives, but also shifts in dominant thinking about what is feasible and desirable. While only two decades ago debates were about the state vs the market, there is currently broad consensus that both are essential. The articles in this IDS Bulletin reflect shifting understandings of the roles of business, markets and the state in development.

They assess the conditions under which new relationships between business and development actors are likely to be effective in addressing key constraints to development. They explore how transformations towards new systems that achieve goals of economic prosperity, environmental sustainability and human wellbeing may take place. And they also raise some questions about what the end goal of business and development is, and whether current goals are ‘fit for purpose’.

The picture that emerges is of increasingly nuanced collaborations and partnerships: business-state, business-society, and between formal and informal business. It is important to understand how narratives develop, what influences and perpetuates them, and how they impact what change is considered feasible and desirable. The issue concludes that working with or through business and markets is not incompatible or unhelpful, but they do not represent a ‘silver bullet’. The articles point to the need for approaches that are nuanced, experimental, bottom-up and inclusive of multiple perspectives. More attention is required in relation to the ways in which changes in business practices and market dynamics impact on poverty, inequality and environmental sustainability.

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Table of contents

Introduction: Changing Perspectives in Business and Development Elise Wach and Jodie Thorpe

Private Sector and Waste Management in Delhi – A Political Economy Perspective Ashish Chaturvedi, Rachna Arora and Manjeet Singh Saluja

Bangladesh Health Service Delivery: Innovative NGO and Private Sector Partnerships Md Rubaiyath Sarwar

Smallholder Farmers in the Speciality Coffee Industry: Opportunities, Constraints and the Businesses that are Making it Possible Inma Borrella, Carlos Mataix and Ruth Carrasco-Gallego

The United Nations and Business: Towards New Modes of Global Governance? (PDF) Carlos Fortin and Richard Jolly

Markets for Nutrition: What Role for Business? John Humphrey and Ewan Robinson

Is Systemic Change Part of Pro-poor Business Approaches? Jodie Thorpe

Explore, Scale Up, Move Out – Three Phases to Managing Change under Conditions of Uncertainty Marcus Jenal and Shawn Cunningham

Building Back Better: Business Contributing to a New Economic Paradigm Katherine Trebeck

Blog series

Shifting the debate on the role of business and markets in development by Maria del Mar Maestre Morales

The United Nations and business: a complex relationship by Carlos Fortin

Market-based approaches here to stay but too many false assumptions by Jodie Thorpe

Learning from market-based solutions for health systems in Bangladesh by Md. Rubaiyath Sarwar

Economic development: introducing options, not bringing solutions by Marcus Jenal and Shawn Cunningham

Building back better: business contributing to a new economic paradigm by Katherine Trebeck


Image of Elise Wach
Elise Wach

Research Advisor

Image of Jodie Thorpe
Jodie Thorpe

Research Fellow, Cluster Leader

Publication details

published by
Thorpe, J. and Wach, E.
IDS Bulletin, volume 46, issue 3


About this publication

Programmes and centres
Business and Development Centre

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