This first section of The Companion aims to provide an overview of the field of development studies in order to provide an introduction to the detailed chapters that make up the rest of the book. The chapters included in this first section explore and comment on two closely linked themes: first, the nature and progress of development studies as a distinct avenue of enquiry; and second, how development as a process and phenomenon can be conceptualized, defined and measured over time and across space. In addition, the section aims to introduce a number of important ongoing key issues in development studies such as the so-called New Institutional Economics (NIE), the Millennium Development Goals and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).
At the outset, it is vital to stress the origins of development and underdevelopment in the global historical context of colonialism. The ideas and practices that underpinned post-war development had their origins earlier, in the late colonial period. Thus the campaign against poverty, so often thought to begin after World War II, in fact has its roots in earlier colonial development projects, and it is valuable to explore how these earlier incarnations of development were practiced and with what effects. As colonialism is often understood as a causal factor in contemporary poverty and inequality, then it is crucial to understand the connections between colonial and postcolonial development.
It is also salient to consider the origins of the so-called ‘first’, ‘second’ and ‘third worlds’ in the politics of the cold war, and the later transition to a North–South dichotomy following the work of the Brandt Commission. With the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the near total demise of the socialist Third World, some analysts have now strongly suggested that it is time to discard these descriptors and to talk instead of ‘developing countries’, and even more so perhaps, ‘poor nations’.
Development studies as an academic subject examining such fundamental issues dates from the 1960s. Its origins lay in a number of British social scientists who were increasingly disillusioned by the insights being provided by existing approaches, including those provided by mainstream economics. The rise of development studies thereby reflected the perceived need for distinctly inter- and multidisciplinary approaches to the study of social, political
and economic change. There seems little doubt that development studies as a discipline has achieved a good deal since its inception, notwithstanding the so-called ‘impasse in development studies’ in the 1980s. The impasse was generally attributed to the failure of development in Third World countries, the widespread imitation of Western policy together with the rise of the postmodern critique and the seemingly universal trends towards globalization.
Turning to early policy imperatives in development, these undoubtedly generally stressed catching up with, and generally imitating, the ‘West’. Such formulations almost universally regarded development as the same thing as economic growth – being based on producing more goods and services and income. Since the 1970s/1980s, the issues on which a growing consensus appears to be emerging include the fact that economic growth is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for development. Without redistribution of income and wealth, inequalities are not going to be reduced, and there is much evidence that it is inequalities that hurt both people and societies in general. Thus, development must be regarded as synonymous with enhancing human rights and welfare, so that self-esteem, self-respect and improving entitlements become central concerns of the development agenda, not just growth. In this respect, in 1999 the Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen published his book under the title, Development as Freedom, arguing that development should be conceptualized as the expansion of the real freedoms that people desire and value. Such an approach would specifically work against longstanding racial- and gender-based inequalities in society, as a path to social change and justice.
There is, of course, a strong argument that matters of development, colonialism and race are inextricably linked. The early stages of what was seen as development assumed that Western ways of thinking and of doing things were the best and the most efficacious, thereby serving to ‘other’ (render as different) the remainder of the world along with traditional practices and ways of doing things. Since this period it is true to say that much of development theory and practice have needed to reconsider and re-evaluate this simple/deterministic set of assumptions on which the earliest development imperatives were based.
Thus, recent approaches to development have been somewhat more liberating in terms of the worldviews promulgated, and there are trends to link development studies with cultural studies, for example, in respect of the condition of postmodernity and the vital nature of issues of peace and security. Further, the trend of globalization, the reduction in the importance of the state, and the associated alienation of the state from civil society, all mean that development studies as a discipline faces a battery of issues, not least whether these trends are real and inescapable phenomena, or are constructs designed to legitimize the logic of the neoliberal market. If it is accepted that development is not just about economic growth, but the promotion of redistribution and the reduction of inequalities, then the value choices involved in such changes are vital and involve important and complex ethical issues.
In the period since the 1980s, a plethora of approaches to development have thereby been promulgated. For example, the ‘New Institutional Economics’ argues the existence of efficient institutions is a prerequisite for effective development. The approach basically attempts to incorporate a theory of institutions into development economics as a way forward. Whatever the theoretical or conceptual approach adopted, as development is something that is actively promoted by states and organizations, inevitably measuring development is important in monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of development programmes and policies. The methods employed to measure development have reflected directly the principal conceptualizations of development as a process held at a given time or amongst those of a particular persuasion. Thus, early on, Gross Domestic/National Product (GDP/GNP) per capita was used as the invariant measures of income and thereby inferred economic development. From
1989 onward, the United Nations promoted the Human Development Index (HDI) as a wider measure of development, reflecting dimensions such as health, education as well as standard of living. The HDI has had wide currency since the late 1980s, and the approach was updated in 2010 by the United Nations.
If development is defined in terms of poor countries, an enduring issue remains the need to measure and understand poverty. Thus, poverty ‘alleviation’ and ‘elimination’ programmes, and the difficulties of Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) are frequently stressed by the international development agencies. Poverty means that despite overall global trends, it still matters where you live, especially if you fall into the poorest third or so of people in the world, living in tropical Africa and Asia. Addressing poverty requires the political will, and many would argue that this remains the real obstacle to development. The Millennium Development Goals are major indicators that are being employed to assess the progress with specific development targets in the twenty-first century and show that although some progress has been made, much remains to be done in reducing gross levels of poverty and inequality.
In early 2000 the growth potential of Brazil, Russia, India and China, and later South Africa (BRICS) was increasingly recognized as a major development issue and these countries were collectively seen as representing the growth engines of the global economy, offering excellent investment opportunities with their large potential markets and rapidly growing middle-class populations. In 2002 the BRICS collectively accounted for some 25.9 per cent of world GDP. It is estimated that by 2040 the BRICS are likely to have a total GDP that is akin to that of the G6 nations, such is their growth trajectory.
Many texts locate the origins of development in the post-1945 era, alongside the emergence of the United States and the Soviet Union as global superpowers, anti-colonial movements, and decolonisation in much of the world. Although development as global project and academic discipline may have begun in this period, many scholars now argue that the ideas and practices that underpinned post-war development had their origins earlier, in the late colonial period. From this perspective,
the post-war crusade to end world poverty represented not so much a novel proposal marking the dawn of a new age, as the zenith of decades, if not centuries, of debate over the control and use of the natural and human resources of colonized regions.
(Hodge, 2007: 3)
If the campaign against poverty, so often thought to begin after World War II, in fact has its roots in earlier colonial development projects, then it is valuable to explore how these earlier incarnations of development were practiced and with what effects. As colonialism is often understood as a causal factor in contemporary poverty, inequality, and violence, it is crucial to understand the connections between colonial and postcolonial development.
This chapter provides the global-historical context for the development theories and practices explored in the rest of this volume. It explains the relevance of the colonial histories of places and people caught up in the nexus of development – as donors and recipients, ideologues and practitioners – to the ways that development was imagined, funded, practised, and received. It begins by exploring colonialism as development. It examines the ways in which colonial rule was presented as premised on the idea of developing and modernising colonies. This section highlights the ideologies of trusteeship and modernisation that underlay imperial rule and shaped colonial territories. The second section explores the material legacies of colonialism in the developing world and the continuing influence of colonial thought and practice in postcolonial development. For reasons of brevity, the focus falls on the British Empire (and its decolonisation), though some of the same trends can also be seen in other European contexts.
Colonialism as development
Enlightenment ideas of ‘improvement’ – or making a more efficient and orderly use of land – accompanied and legitimated colonial rule from at least the eighteenth century (Hodge, 2007).
Potential colonial land was understood as fair quarry for expanding European empires; cast as empty or ill exploited, it was seen as ripe for improvement by those with the expertise through which to make these transformations. Improvement entailed the development of infrastructure (where linked to European trade or settlement), the increase in economic output (benefitting metropolitan interests and markets) and the augmentation of the population with European settlers. In the nineteenth century, medical research aimed to bolster the colonial system by protecting the health of colonial servants, armies, and settler populations and prevent the ‘degeneration’ caused by tropical climates. Improvements were oriented towards metropolitan interests, rather than towards increasing the quality of life of local communities.
The late nineteenth and early twentieth century period saw a new model of imperialism in the French, British, and Dutch colonies, which placed more emphasis on development on humanitarian grounds for native colonial communities. This policy became known as ‘trusteeship’. As Power (2003: 131) explains, ‘Trusteeship in colonial administration was all about the mission to civilise others, to strengthen the weak, to give experience to the “childlike” colonial peoples who required supervision’. It therefore provided the mandate for European powers to help these territories develop through following a path towards Western modernity. In Britain, official policy was enshrined in the 1929 Colonial Development Act, providing British funding for economic development overseas for the first time, and the 1940 Colonial Development and Welfare Act, which ushered in state-led large-scale development for the purposes of improving welfare. Thus the 1930s onwards witnessed an increasing move towards interventionist development policies in colonial territories, resulting in a dramatic growth in the number, scale, and funding of colonial development projects. This trajectory became even more marked in the immediate post-World War II era, a period that has been called, as a result, the second colonial occupation (Low and Lonsdale, 1976).
Hodge (2007: 8) argues that this new push towards humanitarian development ‘helped to reinvigorate and morally rearm the imperial mission in the late colonial epoch’, providing continued legitimacy for empire in a rapidly changing geopolitical landscape between 1930 and 1950. This new style of imperialism was linked to an increasing concern over the poor conditions in the colonies, but also aimed to support the colonial system. Development hoped to stabilise colonial populations through the creation of an indigenous middle class invested in the colonial state, and to soothe growing local unrest during the period of depression. By creating products for European markets and markets for European goods, development also contributed to struggling European economies. As colonial planners began publically to discuss eventual decolonisation once colonies had ‘progressed’ enough, development policies became even more important, both as contributor to this colonial progress, and to ensure the creation of stable and amenable newly independent states.
Development projects in the late colonial period were closely allied with a belief in modernisation. This involved the linear progress of states towards a developed, modern (Western) society and economy. Official British colonial films of this era showcase this discourse of development as modernisation (see www.colonialfilm.org.uk
). Projects were based on a growing faith in the role of science and technology to combat poverty and disease and focused on infrastructural improvement and the technical enhancement of agriculture, industry, and healthcare through new innovations. Higher yielding seeds, new crops, and intensive monoculture were encouraged (and indeed enforced), disease eradication programmes were rolled out, and new mining technology was introduced (Tilley, 2011). Late colonial housing and building projects drew on new materials such as concrete, scientific
construction techniques and modernism in architectural design, imbricating notions of progress into the design of colonial landscapes (Crinson, 2003).
The high modernism of the Kariba Dam project (1955–1960) in what was then the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (present day Zambia and Zimbabwe) is illustrative of the discourse and practice of late colonial development (Tischler, 2012). A huge project to dam the Zambezi and provide hydroelectric power for the surrounding territories, its construction took 40 per cent of the colonial state’s gross national product to complete a...