Doctrines Of Development
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Doctrines Of Development

M. P. Cowen

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eBook - ePub

Doctrines Of Development

M. P. Cowen

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Doctrines of Development sets out a critique of the idea of practice of development by exploring the history of development theory and action from the early nineteenth century to the late twentieth century, from Britain to Quebec and Kenya.

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Part I



The inorganic has one final comprehensive law, GRAVITATION. The organic, the other great department of mundane things, rests in like manner on one law and that is, DEVELOPMENT MENT.
(Chambers, 1844)1
We a civil service which is development-oriented.
(Z.Cindi of AZAPO, a South African political movement, 1992)2
Development seems to defy definition, although not for a want of definitions on offer. One recent development studies text, notably entitled Managing Development, offers ‘seven of the hundreds of definitions of development’. Here, and typically, the well-taken distinction between development as the means of transitive action and that of an intransitive end of action is conflated with a distinction between the state policy of development and the attempt to empower people, independently of the state, in the name of development. Thus, development is construed as ‘a process of enlarging people’s choices’; of enhancing ‘participatory democratic processes’ and the ‘ability of people to have a say in the decisions that shape their lives’; of providing ‘human beings with the opportunity to develop their fullest potential’; of enabling the poor, women, and ‘free independent peasants’ to organise for themselves and work together. Simultaneously, however, development is defined as the means to ‘carry out a nation’s development goals’ and of promoting ‘economic growth’, ‘equity’ and ‘national self-reliance’.3 Given that there is scarcely a ‘Third World’ dictatorship which does not at least in part attempt to legitimise its mandate to rule in the name of development nor a development agency which does not espouse the rhetoric of popular empowerment, it is little wonder that we are thoroughly confused by development studies texts as to what development means.
A major source of confusion arises out of the way that the emblem of development is attached to a source of subjective action which is deemed to make development possible. When it is said that ‘capitalism develops’ we take development to be an immanent and objective process. But when we hear, for instance, that it is desirable for state policy to achieve the goal of ‘sustainable development’, then we understand it to be that there is a subjective source of action that can be undertaken in the name of development. To will the means of development in the name of a purposive end of development is to presuppose that it is possible for development to happen as the result of decision and choice. Development thus comes to be defined in a multiplicity of ways because there are a multitude of ‘developers’ who are entrusted with the task of development.
When attempts are made to establish how the means of action are related to a purposive end in the name of development, as is done in the introductory chapters of most textbooks on development, this confusion is compounded. Logically, the confusion arises out of an old utilitarian tautology. Because development, whatever definition is used, appears as both means and goal, the goal is most often unwittingly assumed to be present at the onset of the process of development itself. Thus, for example, we are told in Staudt’s text that the goal of development is to enlarge choice. For choice to be exercised, let alone enlarged, it is assumed that there be the desire and capacity to choose as well as knowledge of possible choices. Yet, these three components of choice are routinely assumed to be as much preconditions for the development process as the goals in which the process results. If any one of these conditions is regarded as missing then it is that gap which development is invoked to bridge. To seek recourse in the rhetoric of ‘empowerment’ is not to solve the development problem but to replicate it. Either people have power to exercise choice, in which case there is no cause for empowerment, or they do not and the task of empowerment is that of the logical problem of development.
The nineteenth-century resolution of the development problem was to invoke trusteeship. Those who took themselves to be developed could act to determine the process of development for those who were deemed to be less-developed. Now, in the last part of the twentieth century, the logical sleight of hand which justified entrusting the means of development to ‘developers’ is no longer convincing. As doctrine, trusteeship stands condemned as Eurocentrism, an imperial vestige of the post-1945 attempt to improve living standards of poor colonies and poor nations through state administration. Development, when interpreted through the screen of trusteeship, is taken to have no meaning for ‘Third World’ countries and continents of mass poverty; it has had its time and has failed as an idea and a practice. Yet, it is still contended that ‘development’ is the means whereby the goal of universal human improvement can be attained. However much the surrogates of ‘transformation’, ‘progress’ and even ‘revolution’ are used to distance the purpose from ‘development’, we are still drawn back to believe that a surplus population is to be made productive and mass poverty eliminated through some form of empowerment, both through and against the state.
The confusion surrounding development is compounded yet again because attempts to define the word embrace the task of conveying some essential meaning of development. Thus, by way of development studies, students are asked to understand the purpose of what they are studying. By way of development agencies, experts are asked to reflect on the purpose of what they are appraising and managing. However worthwhile the purpose of these tasks, an essential meaning of development cannot be arrived at when its scope is so partial and when it is taken to have no past, or so little that its history can be ignored.
Development, since the 1970s, has come to inform official practice of the ‘advanced’ capitalist world, but is still more closely associated with practice of confronting poverty and unemployment in Africa, Asia and the southern Americas. It is here that we are led to believe that the domain of development lies. Equally, the period of development is invariably assumed to be a span of imperial and post-colonial history since 1945. The subject of development is that of the imperial state, before and after political dismemberment, while its object is taken to be colonial and Third World peoples. Even when the subject and object of development are inverted and the state is confronted in the name of development, the domain of development remains restricted and its essential meaning is lost.
Our intention here is to unravel some of the confusion about development by opening its scope. We do not add to its list of definitions, nor is it our task to find an essential meaning for a word in everyday use. What we do instead is to take development back to when it was first advanced as a ‘hypothesis’ to make us conscious of history in the modern world and to a time when it was hoped that an evaluation could be made as to whether ‘development’ had occurred in the course of history. We take the modern idea of development back to where it was invented, amidst the throes of early industrial capitalism in Europe. The idea of development is necessarily Eurocentric because it was in Europe that it was hoped to provide the constructivist means to compensate for results of the development of capitalism. It was here that development was meant to construct order out the social disorders of rapid urban migration, poverty and unemployment. If, as is now often contended, development has failed, it did so before it was debated as a source of state action at the turn of the twentieth-century beginning of the period of colonial history in Africa and again at the beginning of the end of the colonial period little more than fifty years later.
There are texts, especially in the academic discipline of the sociology of development, that locate the modern roots of ‘development’ in the early nineteenth century as coterminous with the origin of sociology itself. Bernstein, for example, begins the introduction to his widely used selection of readings Underdevelopment and Development by stating that: ‘The idea of development as the progressive transformation of society begins to assume a modern form in the writings of the “founding fathers” of social science.’4 More recent introductory texts, such as Harris’s The Sociology of Development and Barnett’s Sociology and Development, trace the genesis of development through the formulations of Comte, Spencer, Durkheim and Weber. Barnett, in particular, begins his text with the experience of the labour migrant, during the period of rapid migration at the turn of the century in Europe, to give focus to the Weberian idea that ‘migrants have had to find new ways of solving the problems of order and morality as a result of the disruption resulting from changes affecting their lives’. Sociology developed thus, and created ‘development’, as ‘a science which could bring about order in this suddenly changing and confusing world’.5 Aspects of the historical ness of development certainly appear to be more developed in the academic study of sociology than in economics but blindness remains.
First, these texts fail to root the constructivist idea of development in Europe of the first half of the nineteenth century. The problem of order, as in Barnett’s opening to his text, is that of the individual migrant worker facing the fact or prospect of unemployment. There is no witness to the prospect of how official state policy, constructed by means of development, was to be encouraged to manage social disorder and, foremost, the disorder of unemployment. Taking this to be ‘common knowledge’, Bernstein confirms a ‘strategic contrast’ between the post-1945 idea of development, attached to state policy, and the ‘many earlier conceptions’ of development. As Bernstein puts it, it is only ‘in the period since the end of the Second World War’ that ‘development has become a slogan of global aspiration and effort’.6 By ‘global aspiration and effort’, Bernstein implies that there was a constructive effort, especially on the part of the United States, to impose social and economic order upon the world.
Second, but not separately, development and progress are seamlessly stitched together. ‘There can be no doubt’, Aseniero has written in his history of developmentalism, ‘that development has become the central organizing concept in terms of which the historical movement and direction of social systems are analysed, evaluated and acted upon.’ However, Aseniero then insists that development, as the ‘dominant organizing myth of our epoch’, has taken over ‘the role played by the concepts “progress” in the Enlightenment and “growth” in classical economics’.7 Development, as in Harris’ text, appears as an appreciation of the movement of history through the progress from agrarian to commercial and industrial society.8 Or, for instance, in Poverty and Development in the 1990s, the most recent Open University text, Thomas refers to the two meanings of development: ‘(1) as an historical process of social change in which societies are transformed over long periods; and (2) as consisting of deliberate efforts aimed at progress on the part of various agencies, including governments, all kinds of organisations and social movements’.9 There is little or no suggestion of development as the counterpoint to progress, little recognition that the early development theory of Comte, for instance, was based upon the idea that ‘development’ may be used to ameliorate the disordered faults of progress.
We likewise find that underdevelopment, as the failure of previously ‘attested’ capitalist development to reproduce itself in the Third World,10 has a shallow history. Indeed, it is claimed in a recent Development Dictionary that ‘Under-development began’ on 20 January 1949,11 the day on which Truman inaugurated his presidency of the United States with the following words:
We must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas. The old imperialism is dead— exploitation for foreign profit—has no place in our plans. What we envisage is a program of development based on the concepts of democratic fair dealing.12
While it is mentioned that Truman was not the first to use ‘underdeveloped’, we are informed that the word was probably ‘invented’ in 1942 to provide an economic basis for post-war peace.13 In fact, Truman’s idea was not new. Bourdillon, the governor of Nigeria, when addressing the Royal Empire Society in London in 1937, said: ‘The exploitation dead and the development theory has taken its place.’ In 1905, the British Liberal Prime Minister, Campbell Bannerman, responded to Joseph Chamberlain’s injunction to develop ‘our’ estates in Africa with a development design of his own: ‘We desire to develop our undeveloped estates in this country; to colonise our own country.’14 The word may be different but the sense is the same. As for development, so for ‘underdevelopment’: neither was invented during or after the Second World War and neither was originally construed as part of a new imperial project for the colonial and post-colonial ‘Third World’.
It was the global scope of ‘aspiration and effort’, according to Bernstein, which made development and underdevelopment new after 1945. Development was the name, as a slogan, for the attempt to confront world poverty which again was given the name, again as a slogan, of underdevelopment. When Truman pronounced on development, it was an expression of the world power of the United States and not a programme of policy that aspired to a singular national source of state sovereignty. Thus, when Bannerman baited Chamberlain at the turn of the century over a doctrine of development, which Chamberlain espoused, it was to emphasise a narrower scope of British national economy; Chamberlain aspired to construct the wider scope of an integrated and protected British imperial economy.
Time and again, we are impressed by the way that the idea of development is tied to that of state sovereignty. Geoffrey Kay puts it succinctly:
National sovereignty can have no real meaning unless it is joined to the idea of development as progress towards a social and economic equality from which no nation is debarred for natural reasons. National sovereignty and development defined in this way adhere to each other as closely as the principle of equal rights adheres to that of the freedom of the individual.
But ‘development’, in its adhesion to nationalism, ‘no longer carries conviction’:
Just as the principles of freedom and equality were emasculated in the nineteenth century and reduced to hollow, formal and reactionary incantations, so nationalist cries and the demand for development have been drained of whatever revolutionary content they may once have possessed.15
However drained of its meaning as an idea of progress, development came to be embedded in the predicate of social and political order. Progress, Comte had incanted, is the development of order. As such, development was the means towards which progress might be ordered but it was not the idea of progress itself. When development acquired a constructivist purpose, as the means by which the state could impose order upon society, it was attached to an idea of development whose origin was different from that of the idea of progress. Whereas the original idea of progress had seen the past as a series of inferior stages which formed a prelude to the future, the idea of development as an immanent process did not necessarily rest, as did the idea of progress, upon a conviction ...

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