Throughout his career, UMD School of Public Policy Research Professor David A. Crocker has influenced the lives and careers of his students and colleagues working on international development. His work has focused on international development ethics, sociopolitical philosophy, transitional justice, democracy and democratization.
In March, Cambridge Press published a book in honor of Crocker, titled “Agency and Democracy in Development Ethics.” The book was co-edited by two of Crocker’s former students, Stacy J. Kosko, SPP alumna and assistant research professor at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland, and Lori Keleher, associate professor of philosophy at New Mexico University.
While planning a celebration for the 30th anniversary of the International Development Ethics Association (IDEA), which was founded by Crocker in 1984, the idea for the book was born as a way to honor Crocker’s legacy.
Kosko says she knew from the start she would be the ideal person to co-edit the volume of essays. “I was Dave’s PhD student. I worked closely with him as a colleague, and I co-led the Public Leadership Program with him and Jennifer Littlefield at the School of Public Policy,” she says. “I owe my whole career to Dave.”
“What makes Dave such a good teacher is that he is a great man,” Keleher says. “He genuinely cares about each of his students and takes an interest in them and their work. Dave not only writes about enhancing agency and people-centered development, he actively works to recognize and foster the agency of those around him and keeps people at the center of everything he does. As a student, and now as a colleague, I found his support of my personal work encouraging and his inclusive, people-centered attitude inspiring.”
When preparing to gather essays for the book, Kosko says they wanted to look at some of the biggest themes in development ethics. “Dave is probably the single most important development ethics scholar alive today,” she says. “We wanted to broadly focus on development ethics, but then really pay special tribute and attention to the two areas of development ethics that Dave has done the most to move forward, which are agency and participatory democracy.”
Keleher adds that the willingness of scholars to contribute to the volume is a testament to Crocker’s influence. “Because the book is a way to honor David Crocker, it was easy to ask some of the most influential scholars in philosophy, economics and other areas relevant to development to be contributors,” she says. “We were hoping to honor Dave by making a true contribution to the field that he pioneered in a way that reflects not only the high-quality academic work his own contributions inspired, but also his personal talent and commitment to bringing diverse voices into discussion with one another, for the benefit of all.”
The book is a collection of essays written by contributors across varying disciplines and parts of the world, including Peru, Canada, the United Kingdom and South Africa. “Agency and Democracy in Development Ethics” begins with an introduction that lays out the book’s themes and delves into Crocker’s career and contributions to the field. Crocker also contributed chapters to the book in response to the essays.
“The essays make rich contributions to the field, but when read together, especially with Dave’s chapters responding to the contributors, they advance the field in a significant way,” Keleher says. “In these chapters, David extends his own work significantly as he argues that the sort of agency-focused capability approach that he is well known for advocating in his 2008 book, is best understood as a form of perfectionist liberalism.”
Kosko says the audience for the book is predominantly academics and students of development. “We aimed to have a handful of chapters be accessible to practitioners or leaders with a casual interest in the topic,” she adds. “Most of the authors are colleagues of Dave and collaborators he’s worked with. Several of them are former presidents and the current president of IDEA.”
She also says some of the contributors are professors emeritus and some are “new generation scholars”. “Lori and myself both have chapters in the book,” Kosko says. “This new generation has been referred to as the grandchildren of development ethics. If Denis Goulet is the father, then Dave is the son and a couple others in the book were also in that generation, and we’re coming after and trying to push things forward.”