Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Against Developmentalism

quotes from a few scholars and economists which might serve to outline critique of current developmentalism:

"The question remains whether human beings can improve their lot or are they left to the mercies of ineluctable forces-such as the now fashionable "global market." In its non-answers to this question the World Bank (and others in the development establishment) is currently "ploughing ahead with an increasingly incoherent discourse of opposites: the state is needed, after all, but not too much, and only when the market doesn't work well; democracy is important but not if it leads to inappropriate demands for redistribution; and so on" (Leys)."

"Half a century after the first promise of 'modernization' was held out for the `third world,' it is obvious that very little of that ambition has been realized". The result is that "academics are mired in a neo-classical versus state interventionist stalemate . . . and workers in the agencies are trapped in the dead-ends of macro `structural adjustment' policy panegyrics or an endless array of directionless and context-devoid projects. Where the 'people' do have promising projects and meaningful aspirations, local states and global capitals-the roots of the real crisis-conspire against them"

Rather than squarely face these problems the development establishment has shifted its rhetoric and coopted such terms as democracy, equity, participation, and sustainability to use for their own nefarious purposes. Moore and Schmitz ask whether the concepts designated by these terms can have any real meaning if vested interests can make such easy use of them.

the current developmentalism is simply "an exercise of elite institutional selfpreservation responding to the threat posed by systemic breakdown" (Moore and Schmitz)

"Despite his Ph.D. in business and deep roots in the conservative establishment, Korten opens the book talking about his "gradual awakening to the conclusion that the conventional development practice espoused by most conservatives and even liberals is a leading cause of-not the solution to-a rapidly accelerating and potentially fatal human crisis of global proportions"

"We might say that GNP, technically a measure of the rate at which money is flowing through the economy, might also be described as a measure of the rate at which we are turning resources into garbage" (1995:38). Or in terms of an evolutionary perspective we could describe the GNP as a measure of how much we now pay for what was once free in our preagricultural era.(Korten)

"the World Bank and the IMF have worked in concert to deepen the dependence of low-income countries on the global system and then to open their economies to corporate colonization"(Korten)

The current trend toward economic globalization has resulted in a lessening of the power of governments responsible to the public and an augmentation of power of a few transnational corporations and financial institutions. Compelled only by the crusade for short-term profits, these institutions incessantly bombard us with the myths "that consumerism is the path to happiness, governmental restraint of market excess is the cause of [our] distress, and economic globalization is both a historical inevitability and a boon to the human species"(Korten)

"Our international political leaders are entrapped in these myths, and the sociopolitical rewards and punishments in societies are allocated by the institutions dedicated to upholding these myths."(Korten)

"the origins of Africa's tragedy clearly lie far back in the emergence and evolution of the world capitalist economy; and the seeming impossibility of surmounting it today is also bound up with the fact that the leading industrial states have recently chosen to abandon that system of regulation to which the global economy was subject at the time when Africa was launched into independence" (Edoho)

"The natural systems of many African countries are on the brink of collapse" (1996:63) resulting from a poverty caused by "debt burden, degraded land resources because of prolonged use, trade barriers imposed by wealthy nations, mismanaged and misdirected assistance from rich countries, and general lack of institutions to carry out sustainable development policies" (Edoho)

"Policy makers are disillusioned, the poor are dispirited, donor agencies are tired, and the international organizations all are weary of the herculean task of developing [sub-Saharan Africa]" (1996:154). "If the 1960s were characterized by optimism in sub-Saharan Africa, the 1970s by frustration, and the 1980s by widespread disillusionment and unrelieved pessimism, the 1990s are definitely characterized by outright despondency and cynicism" (Edoho)

"externally imposed 'development' was seriously disrupting human relationships and community life and causing significant hardship for the very people it claimed to benefit. By contrast, when people found the freedom and self-confidence to develop themselves, they demonstrated enormous potential to create a better world". The concept of development (must) be radically shifted from a money-centered economics to a people-centered ecology." (Korten)

"for all countries in the world, recapturing control over their own destinies requires the re-establishment of social control over capital and the resubordination of markets to social purposes" . Africa is only the first victim of a return to a market-driven world, though the weakest sections of the First World "are already bearing . . . the costs through unemployment, intermittent or part-time work, lower real wages and the contraction of social services and social security" (Leys).

"difficulties in development theory "are not due to the working out of an inexorable law of economics but, to a significant extent, to politically motivated policy decisions (setting capital free to pursue profit wherever it wishes and on whatever terms it can impose), rationalized by a particular brand of development theory (neo-liberalism) which assigns all initiative to `the market' (i.e. to capital)". In the short run the results of neo-liberal developmentalism could be a boon to a very small elite in the First and Third Worlds and a disaster for most of the people in the Third World (and some in the First World). In the long run the results will be a disaster for everyone.(Leys)

"The new global order ... will have to be more representative of, and accountable to, people (as opposed to wealth) than most global institutions are now". the new leadership must "come from within civil society", ... a citizens' agenda to enhance these efforts by getting corporations out of politics and creating localized economies that empower communities within a system of global cooperation" (Leys)

"These are not insurmountable problems" . He claims that they can be solved through the economic development of people, institutionalization of democratic processes, cultivation of visionary leaders, production of food crops rather than cash crops, and integration of technologies" (Edoho)

"We must give high priority to legislative and judicial action aimed at establishing the legal principle that corporations are public bodies created to serve public needs and have only those privileges specifically extended to them by their charters or in law" . We must to cut down on inequality through guaranteed incomes, progressive income and consumption taxes, and equitable allocation of paid employment. We must to localize the global system by international debt reduction for low-income countries, international financial transactions tax, regulation of transnational trade and investment, and, of course, close down the World Bank (Korten)

Leys, Colin. The Rise and Fall of Development Theory. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996. 205 pp.

Moore, David B., and Gerald J. Schmitz, (eds.). Debating Development Discourse: Institutional and Popular Perspectives. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995. 259 pp.

Korten, David C. When Corporations Rule the World. West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press, 1995. 374 pp.

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