The basic idea of this article is that the nature of efforts to promote development in the poorer countries of the world has changed over time. It has changed both in terms of the objectives that it pursues and in terms of who is in charge of promoting development.
In terms of objectives, the objectives of development today are much broader than they once were. Lancaster argues that aid was originally aimed simply at increasing infrastructure within a country. Then it moved to a focus on directly helping the poor in order to alleviate poverty. After that, it aimed at changing countries’ institutions. It tried to promote economic and political reform with a goal of creating democracies that observed the rule of law and that followed “good government” practices.
Today, the article says, the idea of development has become more “elastic.” There are more aspects to development in most peoples’ eyes today. For example, there is the need for development that will be environmentally sustainable. There is a need to ensure that the rights of the poorest people will not be trampled in the name of economic development. Western aid-givers are much more concerned with a broad array of issues than they once were.
In addition, the groups that are in charge of development have changed. Development used to be a centralized, governmental function. Today, it is being pursued as much by private organizations as by governments.
Thus, Lancaster argues that we have changed our vision of what development means and that we have broadened the cast of players involved in trying to bring development about.