Sunday, October 11, 2009

Development - Gustavo Esteva

The Invention of Under-development

At the end of the Second World War, it was the United States of America that emerged as a super-power. All the institutions created in those years recognized that fact: even the United Nations Charter echoed the U.S. Constitution.
However, America wanted something more. They wanted their new position in the world to be explicit and sought to consolidate that hegemony and make it permanent.
On January 20, 1949, the day on which President Truman took office, the new era of 'development' was opened for the world.
Truman made use of the word 'under-developed' in his speech and thereby, changed the meaning of development...Never before had a word been universally accepted on its very day of political coinage: a new perception of one's self and of the other was suddenly created.
Thus under-development began on 20th January, 1949. On this day, 2 billion people became under-developed. From that time on, they stopped being what they were and in all their diversity, they were transformed into an inverted mirror of others' reality.
However, one must remember that Truman was not the first to make use of the word. Wilfred Benson was probably the first person to invent the word when he referred to the 'under-developed areas' while writing on the economic basis for peace in 1942. Others such as Rosenstein-Rodan and Arthur Lewis also made use of the term and it continued to appear occasionally in technical books or United Nations document but it was only because of Truman that the word actually acquired relevance.
Development is nothing but an escape from the undignified condition of under-development. For 2/3 of the world's population, today, to think of development, first, requires the perception of themselves as the under-developed, along with the whole burden of connotations the term carries.
Today, for 2/3 of the population under-development is a threat that has already been carried out. It is a life-experience of sub-ordination, of discrimination anad subjugation.

A Metaphor And Its Contorted History

Development describes a process through which the potentialities of an object or organism are released, until it reaches its natural, complete, full-fledged form. Through this metaphor, it became possible to show the goal of development, and its programme.
The development or evolution of living beings, in biology, referred to the process through which organisms achieved their genetic potential and development was frustrated whenever the plant or the animal failed to fulfil its genetic programme, or substituted it for some other. In such cases of failure, the growth was pathological.
Darwin's theory caused development to evolve from a conception of transformation that moves towards an appropriate form of being to a conception of transformation that moves towards an even more perfect form. During this period, evolution and development began to be used as inter-changeable terms.
The transfer of the biological metaphor to the social sphere occured in the last quarter of the 18th century.
Development also became the central category of Marx's work: the Hegelian concept of history and the Darwinist concept of evolution were inter-woven in development, reinforced with the scientific aura of Marx.

The metaphor of development gave global hegemony to a purely Western genealogy of history and robbed people of different cultures of the opportunity to define the forms of their social life.
By the beginning of the 20th century, 'urban development' became a very popular term.
In the 1930s, the association between development and colonialism acquired a different meaning. The British started the 'dual mandate' according to which the conqueror should be capable of economically developing the conquered land and also accept the responsibility of taking care of the well-being of the natives. This dual mandate collapsed and took the form of development once the level of civilization started being identified with the level of production.
It is not possible for us to de-link development with words such as 'growth', 'evolution' or 'maturation'. The word always implies a favourable change - a change from worse to better, from bad to good.
However, for 2/3 of the population this positive meaning of the word constantly serves as a reminder for what they are not. In order to escape from the undesirable condition, they need to be enslaved to others' experiences and dreams.

Colonizing Anti-Colonialism

Since it was taken for granted that under-development existed, an intensive search for the historical and material causes for that state started.
Many Latin American theorists strongly critiqued North America for all the development strategies. For them, Truman had just substituted a new word for the backwardness and poverty that had always been existing. Under-development was a creation of development and it only reflected a perception: it was just a comparable adjective.

Conceptual Inflation

Later, development was reduced to just economic growth. Development simply started to mean the growth in a person's income in economically under-developed areas. In the 1960s, however, social growth was seen partly as a pre-condition for economic growth and also as a moral justification for it.
By the end of the decade, many factors contributed to dampen the optimism about economic growth: the short-comings of the economic policies and processed had become very conspicuous by the end of the decade and it also became evident that economic growth was resulting in rapid inequalities.
Instead of seeing the social and economic aspects of development as separate, the next decade involved the merging of the two. The United Nations resolved to identify a unified approach to development and planning that would fully integrate the economic and social components in the formulation of policies and programs. However, this UN endeavour was short-lived and unsuccessful.
1975 onwards, theories regarding human-centered development started appearing. The Basic Needs Approach of 1976 aimed at achieving a certain specific minimum standard of living by the end of the century.
The 1980s was the 'lost decade for development'.
The 1990s gave birth to a new development ethos. In the North it called for re-development i.e. to develop once again what had been mal-developed, or what was now obsolete.
Now, re-development is taking the shape of sustainable development. Human development is also being taken into account.

Expanding the Reign of Scarcity

During the 19th century, the social construction of development was linked to a political design. The 'law of scarcity' was constructed by economists to denote that man's wants are great but his means are limited.
Polanyi was convinced that economic determinism was a 19th century phenomenon and that the market system completely distorted our views of man and society. He documented the economic history of Europe as the history of the creation of the economy as an autonomous sphere, disjoined from the rest of the society.
Louis Dumont showed that the discovery of the economy through the invention of economics was a process of social construction of ideas and concepts.

New Commons

For the common man, struggling to limit the economic sphere is not a mechanical reaction to the economic invasion in their lives. In order to free themselves from the economic chains, they see their resistance as a creative re-constitution of the basic forms of social interaction. They have created new commons in their neighbourhood or villages to live on their own terms.
In these new commons, there are forms of social interaction that emerged only in the post-war era. After having understood what survival means in an economic society, these people are counting the blessings they find in these refuges and actively work to re-generate them.
Following the economic definition of learning, education is equated with diplomas. Health is equated with dependence on medical services.
Within new commons, needs are defined with verbs that describe activities embodying wants, skills and interactions with others and with the environment.


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