Encountering Development

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“Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World ” Escobar, A. (1995). Encountering development : the making and unmaking of the Third World. Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press.

Goal: “That the essential trait of the Third World was its poverty and that the solution was economic growth and development became self-evident, necessary, and universal truths. This chapter analyzes the multiple processes that made possible this particular historical event.” (24) Method: Escobar uses an historical approach to understand the origins, development, and effects of the discourse of development. Main Argument: 1) Development conceives social life as a technical problem to be entrusted to development professionals, 2) the development discourse is a real historical formation articulated around an artificial construct, 3) development is a “top-down, ethnocentric, and technocratic approach, which treated peoples and cultures as abstract concepts, statistical figures to be moved up and down charts of ‘progress’” (44).

early post-World War II “discovery” of poverty - “war on poverty” - “The discourse of war was displaced onto the social domain and to a new geographical terrain: the Third World.” (21). •relationship between capitalism, a rupture of community ties, and poverty: “Whatever these traditional ways might have been, and without idealizing them, it is true that massive poverty in the modern sense appeared only when the spread of the market economy broke down community ties and deprived millions of people from access to land, water, and other resources. With the consolidation of capitalism, systemic pauperization became inevitable.” (22) •the poor became “the assisted” : “The transformation of the poor into the assisted had profound consequences. This ‘modernization’ of poverty signified not only the rupture of vernacular relations but also the setting in place of new mechanisms of control.” (22) •the poor became objects of knowledge management: “More perhaps than on industrial and technological might, the nascent order of capitalism and modernity relied on a politics of poverty the aim of which was not only to create consumers but to transform society by turning the poor into objects of knowledge and management.” (23) •“the social” : “The result was a panoply of interventions that accounted for the creation of a domain that several researchers have termed ‘the social’. As a domain of knowledge and intervention, the social became prominent in the nineteenth century, culminating in the twentieth century in the consolidation of the welfare state and the ensemble of techniques encompassed under the rubric of social work.” (23) •history of modernity = history of the social: “The ‘government of the social’ took on a status that, as the conceptualization of the economy, was soon taken for granted. A ‘separate class of the ‘poor’’ (Williams 1973, 104) was created. Yet the most significant aspect of this phenomenon was the setting into place of apparatuses of knowledge and power that took it upon themselves to optimize life by producing it under modern, ‘scientific’ conditions. The history of modernity, in this way, is not only the history of knowledge and the economy, it is also, more revealingly, the history of the social.” (23) •“...the globalization of poverty entailed by the construction of two-thirds of the world as poor after 1945.” (23) •“This economic conception of poverty found an ideal yardstick in the annual per capita income.” (23) •the narrative of three worlds: “It was and is a narrative in which culture, race, gender, nation, and class are deeply and inextricably intertwined. The political and economic order coded by the tale of three worlds and development rests on a traffic of meanings that mapped new domains of being and understanding, the same domains that are increasingly being challenged and displaced by people in the Third World today.” (24) •Salvation: “In this...
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