This article examines the semantic evolution of the term ‘community development’ (CD) in the latter half of the twentieth century. It is argued that CD has acquired different meanings, theoretical grounding, and practical applications, starting from a focus on traditional societies up to the 1960s, moving to a focus on social and/or civil-rights movements up to the 1980s, and further to a focus on the modern middle class from the 1990s. The thrust of the argument is that the concept is not cohesive and unified but represents a repertoire of meanings which include many shades of CD that are not necessarily mutually compatible but reflect particular political and social practices in the contexts in which they occur.
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