The Development Dictionary
A Guide to Knowledge as Power
Edited by Wolfgang Sachs
Zed Books Ltd
London and New Jersey
T a say 'yes', to approve, to accept, the Brazilians say 'no' -: pois nao. But no one gets confused. By culturally rooting their speech, by playong With the words to make them speak in their contexts, the Brazilians ennch theu conversatIOn. In saying 'development', however, most people are now saymg the opposl~e of what they want to convey. Everyone gets confused. By USing uncntlcalty such a loaded word, and one doomed to extinction, they are transforming Its agony into a chronic condition. From the unburied corpse of development, every kind of pest has started to spread. The time has come to unveil the secret of development and see it in all its conceptual starkness.
American-style as a struggle against communism and at the service of the hegemonic design of the United States, succeeded in permeating both the popular and intellectual mind for the rest of the century. Underdevelopment began, then, on January 20, 1949. On that day, two billion people became underdeveloped. In a real sense, from that time on, they ceased being what they were, in all their diversity, and were transmogrified into an inverted mirror of others' reality: a mirror that belittles them and sends them off to the end of the queue, a mirror that defines their identity, which is really that of a heterogeneous and diverse majority, simply in the terms of a homogenizing and narrow minority.
The Invention of Underdevelopment
At the end of World War II, the United States was a formidable and incessant productive machine, unprecedented in history. It was indisputedly at the centre of the world. It was the master. All the institutions created In those years recognized that fact: even the United Nations Charter echoed the UOited States Constitution. . But the Americans wanted something more. They needed to make entIrely explicit their new position in the world. And they wanted to consolidate that hegemony and make it permanent. For these purposes, they conceived a political campaign on a global scale that clearly bore theIr seal. They even conceived an appropriate emblem to IdentIfy the campaign. And they carefully chose the opportunity to launch both - January 20,1949. That very day, the day on which President Truman took office, a new era was opened for the world - the era of development. We must embark [President Truman said] 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 - 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.' By using for the first time in such context the word, 'underdeveloped', Truman changed the meaning of development and created the emblem, a euphemism, used ever since to allude either discreetly or Inadvertently to the era of American hegemony. . Never before had a word been universally accepted on the very day of ItS political coinage. A new perception of one's own self. and of the other,. was suddenly created. Two hundred years of SOCial construction of the hlstoncalpolitical meaning of the term, development, were successfully usurped and transmogrified. A political and philosophical proposItIon of Marx, packaged
Truman was not the first to use the word. Wilfred Benson. a former member of the Secretariat of the International Labour Organization, was probably the person who invented it when he referred to the 'underdeveloped areas' while writing on the economic basis for peace in 1942.' But the expression found no further echo, neither with the public nor with the experts. Two years later, Rosenstein-Rodan continued to speak of 'economically backward areas'. Arthur Lewis, also in...
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