A Book Review: Arturo Escobar, "Encountering Development: the Making and Unmaking of the Third World "

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In Encountering Development, Escobar’s intention is to rethink the entire notion of development by approaching the subject via deconstruction, prejudicial detachment, and the contextualization of development as a hegemonic all-encompassing cultural space. Relying heavily on “Foucault’s work on the dynamics of discourse and power in the representation of social reality,” Escobar compares his conception of development as a historically produced discourse to Edward Said’s groundbreaking work on “Orientalism.” The author proposes that “The West’s” inherently paternalistic and ethnocentric domain of thought and action, a discursive regime, should be defined by the interplay amongst its three axes: “the forms of knowledge that refer to it and through which it comes into being…objects, concepts, theories and the like; the system of power that regulates its practice; and the forms of subjectivity fostered by this discourse.” Encountering Development seeks to destroy the concept of development as arisen through this regime of order and truth (a quintessential aspect of modernity) and provide a foundational query for the emerging theory of post-development. This task is begun by attacking the representative traditions of late-modernity, places of encounter where identities are constructed; wherein the “Third World” and its people “exist ‘out there,’ to be known through theories and intervened upon from the outside. Escobar’s book takes on a range of heavily nuanced and often embedded issues. Broadly speaking, the deployment of a development discourse in a world system in which “The West” has a certain dominance over the Third World is central to understanding the profound political, economic and cultural effects that have to be explored. As the discourse was constructed under this unequal exchange of power, it has come to be seen by Escobar as “the ultimate colonial move.” Some critics such as Sarden, Moss, Lewis, and Painter have...
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