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What’s wrong with Development Studies?

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It is hard to think “Development Studies” (“DS”) as a proper “science” at the moment.

In fact, the one thing that comes out clearly of a rapid analysis of the evolution of DS thinking, is that most if not all “Development Breakthroughs” look much like a “flavour of the decade” list rather than solid processes valid most of the time

Here’s a quick review:

  • 1950s “Development” substituted colonialism as a way for Western countries to keep control and a presence, also against the Communist threat
  • 1960s “Rising income with own growth”. Huge investments in infrastructure. Large loans from private sources, but growth did not take into account distribution
  • 1970s Focus on poverty and “basic needs” with redistribution. Further borrowing
  • 1980s Switch to aid as poverty of people and States became entrenched. World Bank and IMF pushed for Structural Adjustment Programs. Start of NGOs
  • 1990s “Development” started to include non-financial indicators (Freedom, Democracy, Environment Damage). Focus on participatory programs.
  • 2000s Idea of the State back in focus. “Development” as power dynamics, considering also Women and Universities

What shall then we make of today’s mantras of DS such as Beneficiary Participation, Gender Issues, etc etc?

Obviously I am not suggesting they are not worthwhile and appropriate.

But what’s out there to indicate they will not simply be substituted by new fads, in a few years?

And of course the big counterpoint is that the one and only thing that has changed, ever, is the “Own Interest” of the most powerful countries, ready to defend it no matter what (and no matter what their stated intentions on getting people out of poverty)

This is doubly disturbing, if we consider that at the end of the day enormous resources will keep being wasted in following the latest fashion, rather than in making people get out of a life of poverty and high risk

A thorough rethinking of the whole field of Development and Development Studies is in order

Written by omnologos

2006/May/24 at 00:07:12

The Hypocrisy of “Unsustainable Development” (aka Wrong Pulpit, Sir!)

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Here we go with another environmental conference yet again hearing of impending Doom&Gloom

TERRADAILY – Earth Forum Hears Dire Warnings Of Environmental Collapse

Addressing the two-day forum's main topic — the feasibility of sustainable development for billions of people worldwide — [Jeffrey Sachs, director of the UN Millennium Project] painted a grim picture of systemic environmental collapse, coupled with war, famine and pandemic disease. The astonishing pace of economic growth in Asia and the increasing demands of development in the industrialised world will in a matter of decades, Sachs argued, impose a burden far beyond that which the world is already woefully failing to carry. "It is the central challenge we face on the planet," he said. "Every single major ecological system we have is already under profound stress."

This is not today's news.

I remember Clare Short, former UK minister, making a similar point

And the point is, "sorry guys but if you're poor today you must stay that way"

This is an incredibly baseless remark. Let's put aside the fact that apart than in the mind of the environment-as-religion lobby, there is little indication for any impending gloom. Let's also put aside the fact that economic development has in the last few decades taken millions out of poverty

The biggest hypocrisy is that neither Mr Sachs, nor Ms Short have shown any intention to show the way, move to a remote area, and live off the land to eliminate their own contribution to this baseless "disaster"

I remember those in the 70's, preaching collapse by overpopulation, to whom the only serious answer should have been "when are you going to help the world, and eliminate yourself?"

Obviously we don't need Jeffrey Sachs to act so drastically.

But who would accept Marie Antoinette talking of there being not enough bread, while eating croissants?

What is the meaning of telling humanity that it can't get rich, from the pulpit of Columbia University's Alfred Lerner Hall?

 

Written by omnologos

2006/Apr/01 at 00:06:24

Posted in Development, Politics