NEH Institute Videos:
The central theme of this video is the meaning of development. The label “development” has been applied to a considerable variety of views that emphasize enlightenment, progress, modernization, social evolution, economic growth, cultural reforms and so forth. Theoreticians often interpret development practices through the analysis of advantageous historical processes and successful large-scale humanitarian efforts. Limiting the discussion of development in this way, however, neglects its complexity and minimizes the roles played by major economic institutions, by military force, and by national governments advancing their own geopolitical interests.
This film considers the positive aspects of development practices and highlights some of the dangers that such practices carry with them. Following a brief analysis of how the meaning of development has evolved from a narrow regard for economic growth to a more complex notion encompassing individual human development, this film looks at disparities within and between countries with regard to poverty, health, race, and gender.
Perhaps “development” is essentially the language of Western affluent societies describing their relations to the rest of the world. Sadly, traditional theories of development have regularly served as ideologies that produce exploitation and enslavement of some, including certain ethnic groups.
This film considers the dangers of development practices. It begins by discussing first what an ethical challenge is, and second, the particular ethical challenges that are tied to development. Some of these challenges deal with the implications of poorly executed development, such as the displacement of people by hydroelectric dam construction. The film considers who the actors in development are – whether they are global or local agents – and the implications of how they affect the lives of others.
Global ethics includes topics such as human rights, violence, immigration, health, and climate change. These concerns are global because of the great scale at which they may operate. They are ethical because of their centrality to practically everyone’s life. What you do in a global context affects the lives of others, and so, these issues bring global responsibilities as well.
The film follows the historical development of the idea of human rights in the 20th century and moves on to consider other aspects of global ethics. The film considers the idea that we are one global society (cosmopolitanism) and that international institutions may coordinate relationships between different nations to promote that ideal. It concludes with discussion about ways to improve awareness of our obligations to protect human lives and of how our personal actions can have an impact in changing the world as well as the community we live in.
This film asks the question: “What kind of obligations arise due to the sheer severity of suffering caused by violence, poverty and other forms of natural and human-made disasters?” Most people who reflect on this question find themselves torn: they see a gap in responsibility, and their action, and the action they expect from their national governments, doesn’t match the public outcry. The greatest challenge, then, concerns how we should understand our obligations not just to the people in need next to us, but also to humankind in general.
The film discusses the notion of responsibility and then differentiates between the responsibilities of individuals and institutions. The presenters in the film also offer some suggestions of how societies can introduce a sense of responsibility towards social injustices both globally and locally.