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My Paradigm or Yours? Alternative Development, Post-Development, Re¯exive Development Jan Nederveen Pieterse
Alternative development has been concerned with alternative practices of development Ð participatory and people-centred Ð and with rede®ning the goals of development. Mainstream development has gradually been moving away from the preoccupation with economic growth toward a people-centred de®nition of development, for instance in human development. This raises the question in what way alternative development remains distinguishable from mainstream development Ð as a roving criticism, a development style, a pro®le of alternative positions regarding development agency, methodology, epistemology? Increasingly the claim is that alternative development represents an alternative paradigm. This is a problematic idea for four reasons: because whether paradigms apply to social science is questionable; because in development the concern is with policy frameworks rather than explanatory frameworks; because there are di€erent views on whether a paradigm break with conventional development is desirable; and ®nally because the actual divergence in approaches to development is in some respects narrowing. There is a meaningful alternative development pro®le or package but there is no alternative development paradigm Ð nor should there be. Mainstream development is not what it used to be and it may be argued that the key question is rather whether growth and production are considered within or outside the people-centred development approach and whether this can rhyme with the structural adjustment programmes followed by the international ®nancial institutions. Post-development may be interpreted as a neotraditionalist reaction against modernity. More enabling as a perspective is re¯exive development, in which a critique of science is viewed as part of development politics.

Human nature being what it is, while everyone likes to be a social engineer, few like to be the objects of social engineering. (Ashis Nandy, 1989: 271)

This is an inquiry into critical currents in development thinking. The objective is to go beyond the fraternity of rhetorical consensus in criticizing mainstream development and to hold the claims and aspirations of these critical positions themselves against the light. The focus is not only on the

Many thanks to Gilbert Rist, Chris Williams, Peter Waterman, Mohamed Salih and Martin Doornbos for their comments on an earlier version. The usual disclaimer applies. Development and Change Vol. 29 (1998), 343±373. # Institute of Social Studies 1998. Published by Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 108 Cowley Rd, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK.

Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.


Jan Nederveen Pieterse

critical but also on the armative part of these positions. This exercise is not meant as a critique for critique's sake; the question is what these positions tell us analytically and where they lead us in terms of policy. From an initial impression that alternative development presented a loose pro®le of critical sensibilities and alternative practices, which left so many areas open that its claim to present an alternative model or paradigm to mainstream development thinking was exaggerated and misplaced, my own views on alternative development have been changing over the years. Further delving and enthusiastic accounts (such as Carmen, 1996; Korten, 1990; Max-Neef, 1991; Rahman, 1993) persuaded me that there is a profound and principled challenge to mainstream developmentalism, which can possibly take the form of an alternative development paradigm. However, closer re¯ection on this position raises further questions: not only about how such an alternative development paradigm should be conceived, but whether thinking in terms of paradigms is appropriate at all. The structure of this article roughly follows the logic of these three positions: alternative development as a loose pro®le, a paradigm, and a...
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