PhD students’ impressions of the workshop in Cape Town

4 PhD students from University of Bergen and University of KwaZulu-Natal took part in the workshop on “Perspectives on the Democratic Developmental State” held in Cape Town, South Africa (27-28 February 2018). Read about their impressions of the event and how it influenced on their perception of the issues connected with the Democratic Developmental State:

Kristin Dalen and Reidar Øygard from the University of Bergen

Kristin Dalen

What I appreciated the most when taking part in the «Perspectives on the Democratic Developmental State» workshop was the opportunity to meet with a wide range of inspiring and very knowledgeable people. Having the fellow participants, professors and senior researchers read, comment and discuss my work and the questions I try to answer in my studies (and PhD thesis), was of great value to me.

Many of them brought new insights to – and new ways of approaching – these questions, and hence provided me with a broader understanding of the concept of the Democratic Developmental State. To be included in a workshop with such senior and distinguished professors and researchers is of great benefit to a PhD student. Workshops often allow for good discussion over time, beyond what happens in the sessions, the chance to talk to other participants in breaks and over dinner is very rewarding. New and important contacts are made and old friendships reinvigorated.

The opportunity to go to Cape Town and experience the country and its social and political situation first hand was also a great benefit for me, and something that will stay with me in my work ahead. I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in the workshop and will be very happy to take part in other events organized within the framework of UTFORSK projects.

Kristin Dalen, UiB



Reidar Øygard

The workshop “Perspectives on the Developmental State” held in Cape Town was a very well organized event that included interesting and informative presentations throughout all the different panels. The subsequent discussions on each presentation were highly engaging and instructive. In general the workshop has become an important source for me in regard to relate my own work to the scholarly debate on the Developmental State.

In my work on agricultural development and the role of knowledge, the workshop represented a valuable opportunity for me to present and discuss that work more specifically within the context of the Development State discourse. The engaged and insightful comments from the participants in the discussion following my presentation, has given me direction and more specific content so as to pursue the linkages between agricultural development (in the SSA) and the role(s) of the state in that development. As most countries in the SSA are predominantly agrarian societies, the connection between agricultural development and the role of the state to the issue of poverty is evidently one of chief concern.

Thus, participating in the workshop gave me important inputs to write a central part of my phd. thesis. Apart from that, the workshop also introduced me to a network of scholars, especially from South Africa, that in the future will be of great value to my work on the relationships between agriculture and the Developmental State. To meet other phd. students working on the same topic was also highly motivating. With this experience in mind, I would undoubtedly benefit from taking part in other events organized within the framework of the UTFORSK project.

Reidar Øygard


Methembe Mdlalose and Isaac Khambule from the University of KwaZulu-Natal

Methembe Mdlalose

Dialect in the defining of the developmental state has been the epicentre of much robust engagements amongst scholars. There have been a number of sundry definitions that have previously embraced the discourse around the developing state. These definitions have been found in expressions such as, the third world, developing countries, the global south etc.

The erratic characterization of these states has been fundamentally based on their fragile and rudimental tangents in respect to economic growth and their approach to the remnant global threats of unemployment, poverty and inequality. The workshop themed around the democratic developmental state sought to elucidate how right-wing/neoliberal policies have spread across the global spectrum and how such policies have shaped the developmental discourse. The transition of formerly autocratic states to more structured democracies has opened the gates for further discussions around globalization and development. The global diaspora can be described as the entry point of the dialogue around the democratic developmental state. Notably, the fact that Southern countries are gradually catching up to their western counterparts through rapid industrialization and innovation on the technological front has been a remarkable achievement for southerners.

The workshop hosted on the democratic state presented a number of imperative cases regarding how developing countries can learn from world leaders and concurrently pioneer certain agendas to the world. The growth tangent of countries such as Brazil, India and China gives a general idea of how rapid economic growth is being achieved. Additionally, drawing examples from welfare states, particularly those in Nordic countries, the juxtaposition of polarity in approaches to development opened a dialogue about how countries can fuse globalization, rapid economic with sustainability. The lengthy critique of the Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development Goals and the effects of multinational corporations on the developmental discourse highlighted how different scholars and regions view the developmental agenda.

Lastly, as an African scholar and Doctoral student, I am pleased to report that my experience working with CROP and the rest of the seasoned scholars that are doing work on poverty and inequality across the global, really assisted me in my general knowledge about the discourse. I hope more seminars of this nature can be arranged at a global scale by CROP as they are very thought-provoking, I further hope I can be part of the next round of such engagements in the near future. I am moreover, adamant that the knowledge and experience consumed from the programme will deepen my intellectual well even further.

Methembe Mdlalose, UKZN


Isaac Khambule

Participating in the workshop was a great exposure to my academic career as it introduced me to some of the best thinkers in the developmental state theory. Further to this, it will help in my PhD thesis, which is focusing on the role of subnational state institutions in economic development. Hence I had to utilize the developmental state theory because it invokes for the intimate involvement of the state in economic development matters.

The most interesting thing I learned from the workshop is the idea of a democratic developmental state. Although some success of developmental states i.e. East Asian Tigers is attributed to authoritarian regimes, this workshop expanded my knowledge of the possibility of democratic developmental states.  The feedback from other academics was really interesting as it illustrated the need to expand the work that is being done on democratic developmental states. This is of particular importance not only for South Africa, but as well as many other African countries that have aspirations of becoming capable developmental states.

My perception of the Democratic Developmental State has been fundamentally shaped by the different presentations that were made by the various presenters. Of importance is the new understanding of democratic developmental states as drivers of a socially and economically responsible society that addresses society’s developmental challenges such as inequality and poverty. The importance of social security remains an important aspect for South Africa, as the country is ravaged by poverty, with more than half of the country’s population living in poverty.

PhD students can benefit immensely from this event. They will get to meet different specialists in the developmental state theory. Further to this, they will also get an opportunity to present their work to a wider audience. The feedback they will receive will also improve their understanding of the developmental state theory, and subsequently their PhD thesis.

Students also have the opportunity to network with various specialists. Students will also benefit from the wide range of resources that UiB has to offer.

I would definitely welcome the opportunity to take part in future activities of UTFORSK project.


Isaac Khambule, UKZN

Methembe Mdlalose and Isaac Khambule

Read more about the “Perspectives on the Democratic Developmental State” workshop.