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Social Change - Development Theory

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Animal Farm by George Orwell:

This book represents the patterns of Development Theory in fiction. Often called “Dystopian Fiction,” novels with a developmental theme typically invoke ideas about government control, environmental destruction, and the loss of individualism.

Madeline Bunting’s (2001) views on Development Theory offer some clues about why theories of decline are so appealing. Sometimes they point to bright new alternative futures (social rebirth), other times they focus on the death (mortality) of collapsing social systems as in George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm where Old Major, a prize-winning boar, gathers the other barn animals together to describe his dream of a future without humans.

Matt Rosenberg saw societies developing through predictable stages. Fareed Zakaria expands on that with a pessimistic narrative of decline from an earlier Golden Age down to what we have today.

Animal Farm invokes the same impulse as the society of barnyard animals develops, matures, and eventually declines into terror and corruption. The pigs essentially replace the former role of humans.

Key Theorists / Tenants

  • Madeline Bunting’s (2001) work “The End is Nigh” explains why pessimistic outlooks of the future are appealing to a broad audience

  • Matt Rosenberg (2019) expands on the biological analogy by describing thirty-four new countries that have been “born” since 1990

  • Fareed Zakaria (1997) “An Optimist’s Lament” explores the idea of decline in Western History


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