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Social Development

Social Development
Theory and Practice

November 2013 | 296 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Walking through social development’s key theoretical principles and practice strategies, this book shows how it promotes peoples’ wellbeing not only in the Global South, where it first emerged, but in the Western countries as well. It covers:

  • Definitions and an historical evolution of social development
  • Key theoretical debates around social well-being, human rights and social justice
  • Social development practice such as human capital interventions, community development and cooperatives, asset building, employment creation policies and programmes, microenterprises and social planning among others
  • Future challenges; global poverty, international aid and trade, and global inequality, conflict and injustice.

Complete with international examples drawn from around the world, Social Development: Theory and Practice demonstrates how social development theory translates into practical application.

This book is essential reading for students in development studies, social policy, public administration and social work, and for policymakers and development practitioners everywhere.

James Midgley is the Harry and Riva Specht Professor of Public Social Services at the School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley.


1. Defining Social Development
Approaches to Definition

Towards a Definition

2. The History of Social Development
The Idea of Development

The Critique of the Standard Model

The Origins of Social Development Practice

The Role of the International Agencies

Reactions against Statism and the Renewal of Social Development

Reinvigorating and Redefining Social Development

3. Theoretical Debates and the Social Development Process
The Original Condition

The Goals of Social Development

Change, Progress and Intervention

Normative Perspectives

4. Theoretical Principles of Social Development Practice
Social Development Practice

Features of Social Development Practice

The Practice Strategies

Agents, Levels and Organisations

Assesing Practice Outcomes

5. Investments in Skills and Knowledge: The Role of Human Capital
Human Capital in Historical Context

Types of Human Capital

Childcare and Early Childhood Interventions

Formal Education: Schools and Universities

Popular Education, Health and Nutrition

Issues of Human Capital and Social Development

6. Social Capital, Communities and Social Development
Historical Dimensions

Social Capital and Community Development

Activism and Community Action

Community Building and Community Development

Community Economic Development

Community Development and Social Development

7. Promoting Decent Work and Employment: Policies and Investments
The History of Employment and Employment Policy

Key Programmes and Policies

The Macroeconomic Policy Framework

Employment Projects and Programmes

Employment Policy and Decent Work

Challenges and Opportunities

8. Microenterprise, Microfinance and Social Development
The Evolution of Microenterprise and Microfinance

Features of Microenterprise and Microfinance

Types of Microenterprise

Grameen Bank II and the Commercialisation of Microfinance

Microenterprise, Poverty and Social Development

9. Assets and Social Development
Asset Building in Historical Context

The Nature of Assets and Asset Building

Financial Assets for Individuals and Households

Community Development and Community-Owned Assets

National Assets, Trusts and the State

The Role of Assets in Social Development

10. Social Protection as a Social Development Strategy
The History of Social Protection

The Features of Social Protection

Varieties of Social Protection

Poverty Alleviation Innnovations

Social Protection and Development: Challenges and Opportunities

11. Social Planning, Rights and Social Development
Social Planning's Historical Evolution

The Nature of Social Planning

Types of Social Planning

Planning, Targets and Rights

Problems and Prospects of Social Planning

12. The Agenda: Achieving Social Development
Social Development: Towards Institutional Structuralism

Theoretical Roots

Implementing Managed Pluralism

Barrier and Challenges

Opportunity, Power and Struggle


This book is a tour de force of the theory and practice of social development and how to make a difference in an increasingly inequitable world. It strongly advances the emerging field of social development.  Midgley reviews the historical, theoretical and philosophical ideas that underpin the social development approach and a set of social interventions that are widely advocated to promote both micro and macro social change. It is highly recommended for development scholars and practitioners around the world.

Leila Patel
University of Johannesburg

James Midgley has produced a landmark book which for the first time comprehensively defines and draws out the conceptual and practical dimensions of this elusive notion of ‘social development’. He underlines the profound significance of social development as an essential prerequisite for promoting balanced societal progress and human welfare.

Anthony Hall
Professor of Social Policy, London School of Economics

This is by far the most important book on the theory and practice of social development.  It deals with one of the least researched domains in contemporary social policy – the relationship between social policy and economic policy. A penetrating analysis and a powerful call for a reorientation of social policy studies.

James Lee
Professor and Dept Chair, Applied Social Sciences, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

The Global South and North are increasingly aware of commonalities in their social development agenda. Midgley's up-to-date textbook covers all the essential issues recently highlighted, illustrates new thinking with wide-ranging cases and provides theoretical and historical insights into contemporary world poverty and development

Professor Mitsuhiko Hosaka
Nihon Fukushi University, Japan

...This is an important book that adds significantly to social development theory and practice. It provides excellent background for rethinking social development, the priority theme for the United Nations Commission for Social Development 2015-2016. James Midgley has once again enriched the social development knowledge base and produced a book that is a 'must read' for scholars, students, and practitioners in the field of development.   

Lynne M Healy, School of Social Work, University of Connecticut
Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare

This book is a milestone in affirming the sincere commitment to achieve social development at household, national, regional and international levels. The overall impression of the book fills the reader with optimism that despite many challenges, progress has been made in that social development is now recognised as a distinctive approach for promoting social wellbeing, not only in the developing but also in the Western world... In all, the book succeeds in providing a convincing intellectual foundation for social development practice. 

Professor Antoinette Lombard, University of Pretoria
Social Work

The book gives examples from around the world, a useful glossary, and an extensive bibliography. It provides lucid and challenging reading for policy makers, development practitioners, development courses at any level of higher education, missionaries, and those preparing to serve in social ministry.

Paul R. Dekar
Missiology: An International Review

This is one of the best, it is comprehensive and easy to use. It talks real issues students are expected to learn

Dr Jabulani Calvin Makhubele
Social Work, Limpopo University
December 10, 2015

There is no other material easy to read and reflect on issues other than this book. This is relevant for social work students and other social science students even beyond the soft sciences

Dr Jabulani Calvin Makhubele
Social Work, Limpopo University
December 10, 2015

This is one of the best, it is comprehensive and easy to use. It talks real issues students are expected to learn. It provides basics on social development elements

Dr Jabulani Calvin Makhubele
Social Work, Limpopo University
May 30, 2016

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter One: Defining Social Development

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ISBN: 9781412947787

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