At the close of World War II, “development” began to evolve along two paths. On the first path, scholars aimed to generate theoretical understandings of social change, especially at the national level (development studies). On the second path, policy makers in governments and other development-focused organizations initiated actions to promote positive social change, especially in poor or war-torn nations (development practice). In this article, we review the recent trajectory of “development” in sociology, paying close attention to the intersections between development studies and development practice. Through explicit comparisons to economics and political science, we demonstrate how the prominence of development sociology has varied historically in relation to its proposed policy prescriptions. We conclude by highlighting five uniquely sociological contributions that could powerfully improve contemporary interdisciplinary development conversations, and by calling for greater sociological attention to the complex ways in which a growing transnational field of development practitioners is shaping a multiplicity of development outcomes.


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