Thursday, 27 January 2022


The term ‘progress’ has been applied to social change and it connotes a valuation and such valuation is made according to certain principles. When a subjective analysis confuses ‘progress’ with ‘happiness’ or material comforts, the conclusions tend to remain on the wrong side of value-free judgments and the sociologist must always guard against such pitfalls in reasoning.

The term ‘development’, means formal and structural changes in an organism. Even though society is not an entity like the living organism, the term as applied to such organism can have its valid application in social matters. Just as life grows from the simple to the complex form, society develops in the sense that its ‘energy’ accumulates collectively, such energy is ‘organized’ for functioning in a definite direction, and ‘harmony’ is achieved between the different social organs for the purpose of effecting an overall development. Further, well-known economist and sociologist Gunner Myrdal defines development as ‘the upward movement of the entire social system, and this social system encloses, besides the so-called economic factors, all non-economic factors, including all sorts of consumption by various groups of people; consumption provided collectively; educational and health facilities and levels; the distribution of power in society; and more generally, economic, social and political stratification; broadly speaking, institutions and attitudes to which we must add, as an exogenous set of factors, induced policy measures applied in order to change one or several of these endogenous factors’.

‘Progress’ and ‘development’ are often used interchangeably. For many people, both words mean the same thing and present the same goal. However, progress and development have few differences in the details. One of the main differences between progress and development is that the word ‘progress’ gives the extra idea of ‘movement’. On the other hand, the word ‘development’ does not give the extra idea of ‘movement’.


  1. According to James Midgley, “Planned change designated to promote the well-being of the population as a whole in conjunction with a dynamic process of economic development can be termed as social development.”

  2. According to Salima Omer defined social development as a process concerned with achieving an integrated, balanced and unified social and economic development of society that gives expression to the value of human dignity, equality and social justice.

  3. According to Amartya Sen, 1995 states “Social development is equality of social opportunities”.

  4. The Copenhagen Social Summit, 1995 defined Social Development in terms of three basic criteria: i) Poverty Eradication, ii) Employment Generation, and iii) Social Harmony.


Development refers to improvement in the quality of life and advancement in one’s state of condition. It may refer to the improvements in one’s well-being, living standards and socio-economic opportunities. However, the term ‘development’ is multifaceted due to which lots of confusion and disagreements have taken place with regard to its meaning and definition. Nevertheless, influenced by the scholars like Amartya Sen, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) created a Human Development Index (HDI) that combines indicators like health, life expectancy, literacy, political participation and access to resources (UNDP 2001, 14). Noted economist Amartya Sen argues that development can be seen as a process of expanding real freedoms that people enjoy. This contrasts with the narrow view of development that identifies it with growth or Gross National Product (GNP) or personal income or industrialization or technological advancement or social modernization (Sen 2000, 3). Sen argues that the growth of GNP and personal income can be important means that can expand individual freedom. However, freedom depends also on other determinants like proper arrangements for schooling or education, a proper healthcare system, civil and political rights, and so on. Sen Says, ‘Development requires the removal of major sources of un-freedom: poverty as well as tyranny, poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation, neglect of public facilities as well as intolerance or over activity or repressive state’ (Sen 2000, 3).


  1. Sometimes the word ‘progress’ gives the additional sense of ‘continue’ as in the sentence ‘The argument is progressing’. On the other hand, the development consists of the act or an instance of growth or the process of being grown. Development always indicates a stage of growth or advancement. It relates to an event or a circumstance.

  2. ‘Progress’ and ‘development’ are similar but not exactly alike. Progress denotes a picture of a straight and upward movement while development favours the depiction of wholesome growth in all aspects and sides.

  3. Development deals more with a wholesome activity while progress deals with the particulars of the same action. In short, progress contributes to development.

  4. Progress deals with the current status of the activity which includes the tasks done and the undone tasks while development also looks at the current status but on a macro level.

  5. Progress is part of the development. Development is the wholesome approach or status of a particular activity whether a plan or a project.

  6. Progress and development are also reflected in work and the individual. Progress is concerned with the results while development deals with the process. Progress looks at the end of labour and the evaluative results while development concentrates on the methods and techniques.

  7. Economic progress and development also are relative concepts. Progress is seen as the economic growth of a country while development refers to the distribution of progress to the members of society.

In a way, development and progress have a symbiotic or a two-way relationship. If there is internal development, whether in a group or in an individual, it can affect the status of progress in work or in a plan.


Development is a process that makes human society a better place to live in. It brings social well-being. The nature of development is analysed below (Jena and Mohapatra 2001; Mohanty 1997).

  1. Development is a Revolutionary Process. In many cases, it involves sudden and rapid changes in the social structure. In its technological and cultural dimensions, it is comparable to Neolithic revolutions which had turned food-gatherers and nomads into settled agriculturists. Now, during the development revolution, society is getting transformed from a rural agricultural one to urban and industrial.

  2. Development is a complex and multi-dimensional process. It involves a lot of economic, behavioural and institutional rearrangements. It involves equity, socio-economic and political participation, and so on.

  3. Development is a systematic process. Change in one aspect brings chain reaction and corresponding changes in other aspects also.

  4. Development is a lengthy process. The process of development needs a substantial level of effort over a long period of time.

  5. Development is an irreversible process. It always moves forward. Although some aspects of the process might have some occasional downfalls, the whole process of development is irreversible.

  6. Development is a universal process. Developmental ideas and know-how are diffused from the centre of origin to other parts of the world. There are transformations of ideas and techniques between nations world over.

  7. Development is directional. It is a process that moves in a direction. In that sense, development is also called an evolutionary process. As stated by Spencer, it can be from simple to complex. As stated by Marx, it can be from class-less primitive communism to capitalistic mode of production and finally to socialism. As discussed by Durkheim, it can be from mechanical solidarity to organic solidarity, and so on.

  8. Development is a value-loaded concept. Qualitatively, it talks about the improvement of something over some other. It talks about the improvement in lifestyle, infrastructure, education, health system, and so on. Quantitatively, it always advocates for more (of anything) in number. So it is a process that involves a value judgement.


Development is a form of change. However, there are differences between the two. Change is a value-neutral concept, while development is value-loaded one. Change is ethically neutral and suggests alterations or modifications in the structure and functioning of society over a period of time. Development, on the other hand, advocates change for good. It is a process of the desired change. Although development leads to change, all forms of change do not indicate development. Those changes which are planned are termed as development. A change to be defined as development must occur continuously in the desired direction. These desired goals are set by looking at the values, norms and needs of any society.

Any change in society must get absorbed in the system and must be felt by the people to make it more effective. Such change can then be regarded as development. Advancement in education and modern means of transport and communication has resulted in high female literacy in modern societies. This has led to women joining various jobs in both government and non-government establishments, changing the family relationship as a whole. Such a move leads to a situation like role conflict where the modern women are confused about whether to perform the role of a traditional family woman, a mother, a daughter, a wife or to play the role of a teacher, an administrator or an engineer. Such a phenomenon is an example of social change. However, such change can be regarded as development only when proper institutional arrangements and social adjustments are made so that a working woman does not face a situation like role- conflict and manages both her roles well. Such institutional arrangements and social adjustments will then be called as development (Jena and Mohapatra 2001; Mohanty 1997). 


As discussed in previous sections, development is a multi-faceted term and there are a lot of confusion over its meaning and definition. Questions are often raised on how should one count the development parameters. How can a society be called developed and underdeveloped? What should be the basis? To understand the concept clearly, the indicators of development are discussed as follows:

  1. Literacy or education:

Education is the medium through which the members of society are socialized and the modern means of knowledge, skill and technique are imparted to them. Formal education and training expands opportunities for people and increases their capacities. The availability of an educated labour force in a country is a prerequisite for development, a better governance system and the healthy functioning of democracy. In India, to eradicate illiteracy, successive governments have come out with policies like ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ (SSA), ‘Mid-day Meal Scheme’, ‘Mahila Samakhya Scheme’, ‘Teacher Education Scheme’, and so on. Following the National Literacy Mission (NLM), set up in 1988, the ‘Total Literacy Campaign’ was initiated to eliminate illiteracy. India’s soaring literacy helped the country to become a knowledge economy. From a mere 12 per cent during independence, India’s literacy has reached at 65 per cent (2001 census). This is a strong indicator of development.

  1. Health:

Health is, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) defines it, ‘a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’ Good physical health is the basic requirement for a stable society. Low maternal and infant mortality, good quality of life, and availability of proper health facilities to all sections of society are necessary conditions for a healthy and developed society. In India, although phenomenal improvements in various health indicators have been witnessed in the post-independence period, still several facts need wide attention. The year 2007 data show, in India, the infant mortality rate (IMR)—the probability of a child dying before the first birthday—is still high, i.e., 55 per one thousand live births, although it has shown a continuous decline over the years. Again, 43 per cent of children in India under age five are underweight (India 2010, 519–522). According to the UN World Food Programme report released in 2009, more than 27 per cent of the world’s under-nourished population lives in India. Besides, 40 per cent of women are found with chronic energy deficiency and around 30 per cent of babies in India are born underweight (Bhattacharya 2010). The development of any country with such bad health indicators will be difficult.

  1. Income:

An adequate level of employment generation is essential for a country to raise the income level of its populace. High incomes per capita and increased GNP makes a country economically healthy. When a country has enough economic resources and its per capita income is high, it can invest in social sectors like health and education. Therefore, income and economic welfare are the most important indicators of the development process.

  1. Democratic participation:

Participation in the political process of a state is a rational thing every citizen would want to carry out. The political process can enable or hamper the developmental process. The participation of people in every developmental activity makes it more effective and serves the developmental goals. The right to choose one’s representative and the right to choose one’s government are important for the people in polity. The introduction of adult franchise in India soon after independence is a significant step in this context. However, only the right to vote is not enough for a country to be called as developed. People must also have the right to choose the development that is meant for them. This makes a state democratic and people-friendly. It is an important indication for development when people enjoy such freedom.

  1. Scientific and technological advancement:

Technological prowess makes a country advanced and that enables for creating better facilities for its citizens. When a country is technologically advanced, its people have larger choices for scientific and technological know-how. There are very few countries that can afford substantial amount of resources devoted to Research and Development (R&D) since it is very expensive and involves complicated processes. However, a country with adequate and latest technology can manage its various needs well and make facilities available for its masses.

  1. Strong and sustained cultural civilization:

A country for its true development needs not only scientific tools and economic growth but also a strong urge to sustain its traditional heritage and cultural civilization. The very notion of HDI devised by UNDP is that progress and development are no longer to be measured just in terms of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) or per capita income but also in terms of human well-being, which includes a number of factors like cultural identity, a sense of security of both one’s personal safety as well as safety of one’s culture and one’s place in this world. In that sense, Bhutan’s has very high indicators of human happiness. This is due to Bhutan’s flourishing craft activities, linking craft to Bhutan’s sense of identity (Chatterjee and Ashoke 2005). So traditional cultural ethos and values are major parts of a country’s development. In India, it is the traditional skill (local knowledge) of the handicraft artisans that is a major basis of their identity. However, in post-liberalization India, this identity is either getting vanished or getting diluted and the skill/local knowledge is very much influenced by the market forces (Jena 2008, 22). Sustaining one’s own cultural heritage of any form in modern globalized times is one of the greatest challenges for any country. Without this, the true development of a nation and humanity is impossible.

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