Asunción Lera St. Clair

Paper: Third Stage Development Ethics: Global Institutions, Scientific Uncertainty
and the Resistance against the Politicization of Moral Worth


The paper argues that development ethics requires new research, a deepening of focus and a wider disciplinary scope. Its task must include engaging directly with practices and knowledge for development produced by global institutions, and to join forces with global justice research and social justice activism. The paper argues for a third stage development ethics, enriched with a methodological pragmatism, which centers on the interplay between facts, values, concepts and practices. It views development ethics as a hybrid between a public moral-political philosophy and a public conception of social science. Within global institutions development ethics may become moralizing or the artificial superimposing of ethical analysis to pre-decided values entangled with mainstream economic science. Thus, development ethicists must consider the interplay between values, science and politics, including the ways in which ideas are used and distorted by powerful development agencies.


Asuncion St. Clair is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Bergen. Her work has focused on ethical and normative problems related to poverty and development. In particular, she has applied analytical tools from the field of social studies of science to the interface between scientific knowledge on poverty, politics and ethics among multilateral development agencies. Current work relates to the problems posed by expertise and responsibilities for the eradication of poverty; and broadly to the tensions arising between economic neoliberal globalization and the globalization of human rights. She is also currently secretary of the International Development Ethics Association (IDEA).

Associate Professor
Department of Sociology
University of Bergen
Rosenbergs gate 39
Bergen 5015, Norway

and Senior Research Fellow
Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM)
University of Oslo

Telephone: + (47) 55 58 91 84
Fax: + (47) 55 58 91 99

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