This paper reviews the history of the relationship between politics and development in its three moments: the purely academic discipline; the history of politics in development intervention; and the reality of politics processes in the poorest countries and communities. While these three moments are not mutually exclusive, the paper suggests that the third, the 'real' politics of the poor, is badly understood in the two former moments. This is primarily due to the positivist, normative and institutional basis of political science being ill-equipped to understand the politics of the poorest people: the 'good' applied to change the 'bad' often fails to appreciate the existence of the 'ugly'.
Imagining politics as a process of redistributive social justice:the good, the bad and the ugly presented at Staying Poor: Chronic Poverty and Development Policy, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester, 7-9 April 2003. Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), Manchester, UK, 11 pp.