Alternative Development or Alternatives to Development – IV

While the genealogy of the development discourse is rooted in ideologically laden Cold War rhetoric of “stages of growth” and “modernization,” development as a discursive phenomenon and as a policy assumes a stubbornly non-ideological character. International development agencies and state bureaucracies become what has been evocatively designated “anti-political machines.” They continually reduce questions of poverty and degradation to failures of technological advancement. In its refusal to interrogate the history and operations of capitalism and geopolitical power relations that produce and sustain conditions of poverty, developmentalism as an ideology conjures up an anti-historical reality whereby its structure and function are deemed immutable, present in the same form throughout history.

To date critiques of development have taken two roads. First, there is the series of internal critiques of the project accompanied by proposals for its modification and revitalization. These critiques often use the rhetoric of relief for the poor. Their overriding concern, however, is to keep intact the foundations of the global economic order and its favorite progeny, the development project. Then thee are critiques that often succeed in exposing claims of universality and justice of the capitalist model of development, and in the process demystify the linkages of the development project with capitalism.

However, some problems remain with the second line of critique. By externalizing the sources of crisis, states and ruling elites of the Global South are deemed the only relevant actors for any strategy of action that may be suggested by counter proposals. The center-periphery models of global economic relations do not recognize the supra-territorial flexibility and heterogeneity of globalization. Prescriptions of delinking postcolonial economies from global capitalism do not adequately address contemporary modes of global capital accumulation. The conceptual frame of the delinking thesis rests on an understanding of the postcolonial state as an autonomous regulator of the flows of commodities, capital and labor – an understanding not warranted in the context of neo-liberal restructuring of the global economy.

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3 Responses

  1. nidefatt says:

    Third critique: the world doesn’t need 9 billion people when 90% of them are idiots, and it sure doesn’t need the pollution they produce. Why are we bothering to help the Global South do anything? Why not wipe out their populations and turn those areas into environmental preserves?

  2. Ken Rhodes says:

    An intriguing post, but why here? Looks to me like it belongs someplace like Marginal Revolution.

  3. Ken, This is one of a series (hence part IV), and Concurring Opinions is, as it says above, about (or covers) “the Law, the Universe, and Everything.”