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The socio-cultural dynamics of development: part 1 development, growth and globalisation

Maurice Yolles (Business School, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 1 July 2019

Issue publication date: 1 July 2019




Agency involves dynamic socio-cultural processes that facilitate development. This paper is written in three parts. In Part 1, there are two purposes, the first purpose is to intimately connect agency and institutional theory, and the second purpose is to explore the relationship between agency development and growth and globalisation. In Part 2, the purpose will be to explore development with respect to the political context by explaining in terms of culture under what conditions political groups may come to power. Using political frames intended to define their nature and realities, political groups seek to attract agents in their political sphere to gain administrative power. In Part 3, the purpose will be to model, using cybernetic agency theory, the nature of development and its reduction to instrumentality.


In this part of the three-part paper, development theory is explained as a multidisciplinary field in which research and theories are clustered together and set within an adaptive institutional activity system framework. An adaptive activity system has a plural membership of agents represented by agency. Agency represents an activity system that will be argued to operate through its institutional metasystem. This enables activity system development to be explained as a process of institutional evolution. In Part 1, the problem will be addressed of how the relationship between agency and institution enables institutional change. To resolve this agency will be shown to be institutional in nature, and agency development as a process of institutional evolution. To distinguish between development and growth/globalisation, agency will be taken to have an internal and external context. Distinction will then be made between development as an internal attribute of agency and its consequences, which may include the external attributes of growth/globalisation. It will also be explained that development may have a less desirable condition when it becomes liquid.


The three-part paper develops a political development theory that identifies the conditions under which formal political groups are able to promote frames of policy to attract support from autonomous agents that constitute the membership of the activity system, and hence gain agency status. Furthermore, Bauman’s theory of liquid modernity is connected to Sorokin’s theory of socio-cultural dynamics and cultural stability. One result is the notion of liquid development, an unstable condition of development in adaptive activity systems.

Research limitations/implications

The implication of this research is that, given additional appropriate measurement criteria, it will allow conceptual and empirical methods to be used that will potentially enable political outcomes in complex socio-political environments to be anticipated.

Social implications

The implication of this research is that it will allow empirical methods to be used that potentially enables political outcomes in complex socio-political environments to be anticipated, given additional appropriate measurement criteria.


The synergy of agency and institutional theories to explain the process of development is new, as well as its application to the political development process in a political landscape. As part of this synergistic process, Bauman’s concept of liquidity is shown to relate to Sorokin’s ideas of socio-cultural change.



Yolles, M. (2019), "The socio-cultural dynamics of development: part 1 development, growth and globalisation", Kybernetes, Vol. 49 No. 7, pp. 1813-1836.



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