The best books that show how development economics and development ethics are intertwined

Why are we passionate about this?

Robin Attfield and Barry Wilkins are retired members of the Philosophy staff of Cardiff University, where they individually and jointly taught undergraduate courses in Philosophy and History of Ideas, and magistral courses in Social Ethics. They also supervised doctoral students in fields including development ethics; former students of theirs hold professorships in places ranging from Los Angeles to Addis Ababa and to Jahangirnagar (Bangladesh). Robin Attfield is currently completing his twentieth published book; several of his books have concerned our international responsibilities. From 1990 they became aware of a serious gap in the philosophical literature with regard to international development, and managed through their joint book to begin plugging it.


We wrote...

International Justice and the Third World: Studies in the Philosophy of Development

By Robin Attfield and Barry Wilkins (editor),

Book cover of International Justice and the Third World: Studies in the Philosophy of Development

What is our book about?

This book contests the view that there is no such thing as justice between societies of unequal power and that there is no obligation to assist poor people in distant countries, and helps make good the lack of philosophical literature about global justice and the conceptual issues surrounding the concept of development. Contributors range from established figures like Kai Nielsen and Onora O’Neill, via prominent development ethicists such as Nigel Dower, to Cardiff University philosophers such as Geoffrey Hunt (subsequently a Professor at other Universities), Barry Wilkins, and Professor Robin Attfield. The doyenne of development ethics, Professor Iris Marion Young, regularly assigned this book to generations of her students.

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The books we picked & why

Book cover of The Ethics of Development: From Economism to Human Development

Robin Attfield and Barry Wilkins Why did I love this book?

Barry was impressed by the force of Des Gasper's argument that under the influence of economic theory the development of the poor countries of the global south is often conceived far too narrowly.

Gasper argues instead for the relevance of development ethics in exploring what social provisions are desirable for a fulfilling human life.

Barry was also persuaded by the way in which Gasper draws upon the work of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum (amongst others) to articulate a rich and fruitful concept of human development, which includes not just provision for the meeting of basic human needs but also for the social conditions required for people to have the positive freedom to pursue their own goals in life.

By Des Gasper,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ethics of Development as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A self-contained introduction to the field of ethics and development for students, practitioners and the general reader. The Ethics of Development asks what is good 'development', of societies and for people. It looks at how equating development with economic growth has been challenged, examining whom that growth benefits or harms and which aspects of life it values or excludes and can favour or damage. It goes on to explore an alternative conception -- that of 'human development', meaning achievement with respect to a wider range of values and the advancement of people's freedom to achieve well-reasoned values. The book synthesises…


Book cover of Faces of Hunger: An Essay on Poverty, Justice and Development

Robin Attfield and Barry Wilkins Why did I love this book?

Robin loves the way that this book displays how even a Kantian basis (not home territory for him) shows why poverty should not be tolerated.

It underlines how extreme poverty undermines the exercise of rational agency, and thus the proper functioning of human beings.

Onora O’Neill argues cogently that morality precludes the employment of force or fraud, and gives rise to universal principles applicable both within and between societies. Population policies, for example, should depend on the informed consent of those affected.

Book cover of World Ethics: The New Agenda

Robin Attfield and Barry Wilkins Why did I love this book?

This work, from a former President of the International Development Ethics Association (IDEA), illuminatingly sifts the major theories of international relations, of development and of related theories of ethics.

Readers will value, as Robin does, seeing how all these theories interrelate and support development that recognises human needs. This is a work at the interface of Applied Philosophy and International Relations, and embodies an insightful analysis of connections between these fields. 

By Nigel Dower,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked World Ethics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

World Ethics: The New Agenda identifies different ways of thinking about ethics, and of thinking ethically about international and global relations. It also considers several theories of world ethics in the context of issues such as war and peace, world poverty, the environment and the United Nations. Key Features: * Rejects the idea of international scepticism and the 'morality of states' * Demonstrates the distinction between a global ethic as a theory and as social reality * Defends the claim that we are world citizens with global duties The second edition has been substantially revised to take account of recent…


Book cover of Hunger and Public Action

Robin Attfield and Barry Wilkins Why did I love this book?

Drèze and Sen convince me (Robin) that the remedies for persistent malnutrition differ from those for famine, and involve institutional change, rather than emergency relief.

Hunger is often due not to a local lack of food, but to lack of access to food that is in principle available, and often plentiful. Relatedly, development is a process of change that protects, restores, strengthens, and expands people’s valued and valuable capabilities.

Robin relishes their view that developing nations need the freedom to question prevailing values.

By Jean Dreze, Amartya K. Sen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hunger and Public Action as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This study is devoted to an analysis of the problem of hunger in the modern world and of the role that public action can play in combating it. The book is divided into four parts. The first attempts to provide a coherent perspective on the complex nutritional, economic, social and political issues involved in analysing the problem of hunger in the modern world. The second part deals with famine prevention, paying special attention to Africa. The third part focuses on chronic undernourishment and related deprivations. Parts two and three include a number of case studies of successful public action for…


Book cover of Your Money Or Your Life: The Tyranny of Global Finance

Robin Attfield and Barry Wilkins Why did I love this book?

Barry recommends this book for Eric Toussaint's powerful analysis of the global financial system and its principal institutions (such as the IMF and World Bank) as a system of power relations maintaining the subordination and exploitation of the global south.

Barry found the exploration of possible solutions particularly valuable, ranging from various forms of resistance in poorer countries to the development of support and solidarity from social movements and struggles in rich countries.

Desirable policy changes are also discussed, especially debt cancellation in relation to the Third World Debt Crisis.

By Eric Toussaint,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Your Money Or Your Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the last decade neoliberal policies have created debt and global impoverishment on a massive scale. In this updated edition of his internationally recognised book, Toussaint traces the origins and development of the crisis in global finance.


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I Meant to Tell You

By Fran Hawthorne,

Book cover of I Meant to Tell You

Fran Hawthorne Author Of I Meant to Tell You

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Museum guide Foreign language student Runner Community activist Former health-care journalist

Fran's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When Miranda’s fiancé, Russ, is being vetted for his dream job in the U.S. attorney’s office, the couple joke that Miranda’s parents’ history as antiwar activists in the Sixties might jeopardize Russ’s security clearance. In fact, the real threat emerges when Russ’s future employer discovers that Miranda was arrested for felony kidnapping seven years earlier—an arrest she’d never bothered to tell Russ about.

Miranda tries to explain that she was only helping her best friend, in the midst of a nasty custody battle, take her daughter to visit her parents in Israel. As Miranda struggles to prove that she’s not a criminal, she stumbles into other secrets that will challenge what she thought she knew about her own family, her friend, Russ—and herself.

I Meant to Tell You

By Fran Hawthorne,

What is this book about?

When Miranda’s fiancé, Russ, is being vetted for his dream job in the U.S. attorney’s office, the couple joke that Miranda’s parents’ history as antiwar activists in the Sixties might jeopardize Russ’s security clearance. In fact, the real threat emerges when Russ’s future employer discovers that Miranda was arrested for felony kidnapping seven years earlier—an arrest she’d never bothered to tell Russ about.

Miranda tries to explain that she was only helping her best friend, in the midst of a nasty custody battle, take her daughter to visit her parents in Israel. As Miranda struggles to prove that she’s not…


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