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Change and continuity in rural Cambodia: Contours of a critical hermeneutic discourse of Third World development

Edward Paul Graybill, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In the present milieu of global change and redefinition, traditional approaches to Third World development are being submerged in a rising tide of skepticism given the dubious record of development efforts to date. The root problem in traditional approaches to development has been epistemological: They have failed to deal appropriately with the complex questions of how people change their beliefs and practices, how development insiders and outsiders reach new, mutually constructed development meanings and understandings that provide the basis for development praxis and address in a productive manner the 'tradition-modernity' dialectic in development. In recent years, increasing attention is being paid to articulating alternative discourses of development that better address the phenomenon of change at the implementation level, the level of discourse. This dissertation proposes that a fusion of philosophical hermeneutics and critical theory in the form of a 'critical hermeneutic discourse of development' (CHDD) effectively addresses the epistemological dimensions of the development problematic and can, therefore, ground the discourse-practices of an alternative development. The major theorists drawn upon in constructing this discourse are Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jurgen Habermas. Chapter 1 examines the development problematic, focusing especially on the epistemological dimension; it establishes the rationale for proposing CHDD as a viable counter-discourse, and describes the methodology of the study. Chapter 2 reviews prominent theories, models, and strategies of change and development, and deconstructs them in order to free development discourse from its traditionally positivist moorings. Chapters 3-5 describe the major dimensions of hermeneutics and critical theory and delineate their implications for development discourse. Chapter 6 examines the socio-cultural background of Cambodia and introduces the case study, the Cambodian Village Development Project, a rural development project on which the researcher was Field Director during 1992-1994. In Chapters 7 and 8 the major dimensions of a CHDD are applied to the case study, the aim being to demonstrate how they were exemplified in the design, implementation, and overall discourse-practices of the project. The study concludes in Chapter 9 with a critical assessment of a CHDD and a discussion of the myriad development issues and questions it helps to illuminate with new light.

Subject Area

Social structure|Philosophy|Cultural anthropology

Recommended Citation

Graybill, Edward Paul, "Change and continuity in rural Cambodia: Contours of a critical hermeneutic discourse of Third World development" (1995). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9541113.