The purpose of the ASA Sociology of Development Section is to provide a home for the many sociologists who study social and economic development.
The number of development sociologists in the discipline is large. The 2010 Guide to Graduate Departments lists 315 sociologists who list development or political economy as one of their primary areas. This 315 figure does not include such authors of well known books on the Sociology of Development as Peter Evans, Sarah Babb, Rebecca Emigh, or Vivek Chibber. Nor does it include any graduate students; the sociology of development is frequently an area of keen interest to foreign graduate students. At the 2009 ASA Annual Meetings, 74 authors presented papers on development. This was despite there being only one panel on development and one panel on gender and development. The majority of authors in development had to present their work on panels on other subjects – often being the “odd paper” in a session with a different focus.
There is no section that devotes a majority – or even a large share – of its activities to development issues. There are many sections that partially address development – such as Economic Sociology, PEWS, Comparative Historical, Sex and Gender, and Global/Transnational. However, most of these sections have other important agendas; the vitality and dynamism of these other research programs bear the unfortunate cost of relegating development to secondary status. Furthermore, many sections are relatively homogenous theoretically or methodologically. In contrast, the study of development is extremely diverse. World-systems theorists, functionalists, comparative macro-sociologists, demographers, feminist theorists, economic sociologists and spatial theorists all study development. There are few sections that could easily accommodate all of these “scholar-types”.
The proposed section would promote greater interaction, collaboration and mutual support among development sociologists through activities at the Annual Meetings and by activities on the Web during the rest of the year. Panels and receptions at ASA provide forums for development sociologists to present work to peers and for networking to occur. Particularly exemplary work could be recognized by the awarding of prizes for particularly important books, articles, dissertations or careers. During the rest of the year, members could be supported by a list-serve and by an electronic newsletter. This could provide information about funding, publication outlets, and job openings, as well as providing opportunities for electronic peer discourse and opportunities to identify opportunities for collaboration. When the section becomes more mature, we may be able to sponsor conferences on topics of interest to the members.
Starting a section on the Sociology of Development is also important because of the salience of poverty and economic change to the major problems facing both American and global society. State regimes fall based on demands for more jobs. They also fall as a result of unexpected consequences of creating jobs. Economic change causes ecological changes that affect the planet. Development changes the labor market which changes earnings power which changes gender relations and the structure of the family. Development shapes the forms of new social movements. For sociology to speak cogently to the social problems of today, the discipline must have a strong capacity to speak to questions of development.