Development and Well-being was originally presented as a professorial inaugural lecture in Malay entitled, Pembangunan dan Kesejahteraan: Agenda Kemanusiaan Abad ke-21 on 26 September 2003 at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Underdevelopment and development have been a major theme in ideological and theoretical debates as well as a major policy concern in newly independent countries in the last half-century. The field of development studies has been fraught by sharp contestations between various schools of thought, ranging from modernisation theory and neoliberalism to different strands of neo-Marxism and statist or neo-statist theories.
In terms of human experiences of development, the success of East and South East Asia has spurred optimism and formed the basis for the construction of a new set of development theory and policy choices centring around the developmental role of the state.
However, since the ending of the Cold War and the neoliberal counter-revolution, the role of the state has been seriously questioned, placing development theory and development studies in a quandary, posing the inevitable question of the relevance of the role of the state. Development and well-being is a spirited attempt at reexamining various dimensions of development and development discourse, viz. its epistemology, theory, development experience as well as the fate befalling development studies.
These issues are addressed in light of the debates in development studies and the history of development in the developed as well as developing countries. This is a useful contribution towards efforts at revitalising development theory and development studies as scholarly fields and according them their deserved status. It also provides an intellectual foundation to rededicate and reaffirm development as a historic enterprise to advance human well-being and dignity.
The question of development has been a passion for many including the author himself. He was born and grew up in a small village in Terengganu, one of the most backward states in Peninsular Malaysia since the colonial period until today. Having had such experience and being exposed to the polemics of development theories and policies in the late 1960s as a student of the sociology of development in Britain, and the debates on the politics of development and nation-building in Malaysia during the early post-independence years, the question of development came quite naturally to the author.
The author pursued this subject with passion in his teaching, research, publication and other activities since then. The author has been very fortunate to have friends and colleagues who shared his concerns and ideas, enabling them to debate all sorts of questions involving development, including the economics, politics and culture of nation-building, followed later on with related themes such as globalisation, the role of the state, middle class and civil society. Just like his colleagues, the author has also been very concerned with the fate of development studies a highly influential scholarly field in the 1960s and 1970s particularly for the developing countries that has been eclipsed since the 1980s with the onslaught of neoliberal globalisation. He feels we urgently need to re-vitalise this corpus of knowledge for the current and succeeding generations.