Putting all the sustainable development eggs in the private sector basket : An investigation into hegemonic struggle in the Danish development community over increasing private sector-driven development

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: How sustainable development (SD) is envisioned, practiced and financed is a crucial question today. In Denmark, the former government introduced private sector-driven development (PSDD) at the heart of Danish development cooperation. In this thesis, I seek to understand how the Danish development community (represented in this study by four large civil society NGOs) have positioned themselves to this government paradigm, using critical discourse analysis and Gramsci’s concept of hegemony. I then seek to uncover how hegemony can be explained and challenged in this context. The thesis shows that despite little evidence to the efficiency of blended finance and partnerships (core tenets of PSDD) as a pathway for SD, the government discourse has largely colonized the Danish development community. This discourse is characterized by urgency, necessity, and optimism for PSDD as a win-win solution. The hegemonic NGO discourse reiterates this to a large extent and urges participation in order to guarantee ethics. A counter-hegemonic NGO discourse challenges this with a counter-alternative, ‘public finance for public goods’. All use the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to justify their position. The vulnerability of the Danish development community to hegemony can be seen as a result of existing social practices, including the universality of broad SD agendas, the allure of win-win solutions, corporate capture of civil society purpose and language and NGOization of civil society. As the last step, pathways for the counter-hegemonic movement to pose a stronger challenge to the PSDD hegemony are discussed. I argue that the discursive struggle must be complemented by praxis and efforts to change the material conditions of the development community. A stronger countermovement may be built on turning away from the SDGs as a final end and with it the growth centered weak sustainability of the government and exploring other conceptualizations better fundamentally challenge the hegemony.

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