Until the early 1980s, despite paying lip-service to the central role of ‘human capital’, most decision makers were obsessed by physical development and the rate of increase of Gross National Product. Like other Third World countries, Egypt followed suit. Ten years ago, however, with accumulating external debts and social disintegration, it became clear that the returns on investments in these infrastructural schemes were meagre or even negative. Culture, community, and organic leadership were rediscovered as the missing links in the development process. These and other forms of associational life are sometimes subsumed under the concept of ‘civil society’. Development has come to be defined as a process in which human potentialities are optimised at the individual and collective levels. This article illustrates the interaction among these variables by reference to examples of community-based development.
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