Journal Article

IDS Bulletin 47.2

Challenging the Asymmetries of Power: A Review of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) Contribution

Published on 29 April 2016

Despite the fact that power has been a key concept in social and political theory for decades, within international development a focus on understanding power relationships and how they are challenged and transformed has only recently become more central.

In this article, we examine how the concept of power has been used and discussed in IDS Bulletin articles over the last five decades, reflect on IDS contributions to the concepts and practices of power in development, and speculate on what further work might shape and inspire work in this field in the future. We argue that an explicit analysis of power was largely absent from earlier issues of the IDS Bulletin, or considered in narrow economic terms.

However, beginning around the 1990s, the analysis of power emerged more centrally to IDS work across many fields – including gender, knowledge, participation and livelihoods – such that today, understanding how power relations shape development is considered a core part of the IDS approach.

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IDS Bulletin 47.2


John Gaventa

Research Fellow and Director, Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) programme

Publication details

published by
Institute of Development Studies
IDS Bulletin, volume 47, issue 2