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Post Development Theories Dealing A Fatal Blow Politics Essay

Info: 2912 words (12 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in Politics

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Post development is a paradox in development paradigm. It is difficult to define for its wilderness, radicalism and diverse views. However, very precisely, post development is ‘subversive’, ‘people-cantered’ and ‘radical’ (Rahnema, 1997: xi). Broadly, Escobar (1995: 215) describes post-development as: a rejection of development paradigm i.e., alternative to development – not alternative development; an interest in local culture and knowledge; a critical stance towards established scientific discourses and the defence and promotion of localised, pluralistic grassroots movements. (Escobar, 1995: in Ziai:2004:) Thus, post development thinkers consider that main stream development theories are orthodox as ‘new religion of the west’ (Rist, 1990), ‘imposition of science as power’ (Nandy:1988), growing concern of ‘laboratory states’ (Vishvanathan:1988), ‘does not work’ (Kothari:1988) ‘Cultural westernization and homogenisation’ (Constantino:1998), ‘environmental destruction’ (Pieterse:1998) and setting ‘middle class life style’ (Dasgupta:1988). Thus, in recent years, there has been growing attention to the concept of multiple or parallel modernities, post development, post modernity, decentre to Eurocentric development, anti- ethnocentric development, anti-development, anti-hegemony and so on (Appadurai:1986 in Pieterse:2001; Escober:1992). These critical approaches have brought a great challenge toward orthodox theories of development. Thus, Pieterse (2001) says ‘everything that development … appears to be in question, in crisis’ (Pieterse:2001:1). This line of reasoning has developed post development thinking, the most recent radical reaction to the problems of post-War [orthodox] development theories both strident criticism and restrained defence (Brigg :2002). This paper attempts to frame a critical analysis how post development theories has criticised and influenced the orthodox development theories.

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Development Discourse

The term ‘development’ has labelled with diverse meaning which may be varied into time, place and sphere, such as: ‘reconstruction and development’, ‘economic development’, ‘economic growth’, economic growth and per capita income’, ‘modernisation’, ‘redistribution with growth’, ‘dependent development’, ‘interdependent development’, ‘meeting basic needs’, ‘top-down development’, ‘bottom-up development’, ‘another development’, ‘autochtonous development’, ‘autarchic development’, ‘agropolitan development’, ’empowerment’, and, most recently, ‘post-development’, ‘anti-development’ and even ‘post-modern development’ (Simon: 1997:184). However, ‘development’ is inevitable for understanding the societal process i.e., the ideological tradition of seeing society as an object to be changed by rational, purposive human action and collective intervention that varies ‘according to class, culture, historical context and relations of power’ (Hettne:1995; Pieterse:2001).

Development theories are broad problem-driven explanatory frameworks, deeply contextualized by political processes and social imperatives (Pieterse: 2001:3) which have ideological, theoretical and methodological differences. C.P Oman and G Wignaraja (1994) stated that orthodox development theories focus on: capital accumulation and industrialisation; dualism, agriculture centred development and green revolution; open economy development and the neoclassical resurgence; and reformist development thinking (Oman and Wignaraja:1994:1). However, most of the post War mainstream development theories more or less orthodox development theories, in the view of post development theories, because they have a tendency to view development as westernisation, a hegemonic relation and ignorance to tradition. Let us have at a glance view on major development theories which would help further discussion. Such as:






Orthodox Theories


Colonial Economics

Resource Management

Development through Colonial


Latecomer Development


Development through Industrialization


Development Economics

Growth + Industrialisation


Modernization theory

Growth + Industrialisation + Modernisation

Third World Development from the perspective of First World

Rostow, Parsons, Nurkse, Lewis,


Dependency Theory

Growth + Industrialisation+Accumulation

Third World Development in relative to First World

Prebisch, Frank, Baran,


Alternative Development

Growth + Human Flourishing



Growth + Structural Reforms (deregulation, liberalisation, privatisation)

Friedman, Hayek, Lal, Bauer, Belassa, IMF & World Bank


Development as Freedom

Growth+ freedom of choice

Expansion of Capability

Amartya Sen


Human Development

Growth+ fulfilment of Basic Needs + Human Development

Human Focused Development

Mahbub Ul Haq

Post Development Theories


Anti Development

Rejection of Development Theories

Anti western but rarely shows any path

Sachs, Sidaway, Esteva, Illich


Beyond Development

Rejection but seeking Alternative to Development

Local Tradition, Indigenous Knowledge

Escober, Nandy, Dasgupta



Deconstruction through Discourse

Foucault, Pieterse,

Compilation adopted from: (Pieterse.J.N.2001)


All critical approaches to development came into being dealing with dark sides of development i.e., ‘dependency theory’ questions about global inequality, ‘alternative development’ about participation, and ‘human development’ about investment in people and ‘Post-development’ positions include the problem of poverty, seeing development as Westernization, critique of modernism and science, and the difference between Alternative Development and ‘alternatives to development’ (Pieterse.J.N:2001). ‘Post-development’ means ‘an anti-authoritarian sensibility, an aversion to control and perhaps an anarchist streak’ (ibid). Moreover, Post Development refers to a critique of the standard assumptions about progress, who possesses the keys to it and how it may be implemented (Sidaway and Power:1995). Escober(1995) stated that post development perspective is highly critical of how standard views of development categorise populations and countries in the South in over generalised and deprecating ways. Thus, Post Development conceived a diverse views and waves but there three main strands namely, ‘anti-development’ ‘beyond development’ and ‘Post-development’. Although they are rooted in the post-modern tradition which rejects modernisation with highlighting diversity, context and alternative voices (Tuathail and Toal :1994). However, each of the strands poses a particular view to the developmentalism.

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Anti-development is one of the most radical strands of post development thinking which outright the rejection of development theories. It rejects all of the ‘meta -theory’ and ‘meta-narratives’ in the field of development. The ‘Anti-development thinkers considered development is itself a flawed and dangerous concept (Pieterse:2001) which emphasise westernisation and homogenisation. It examines power relationship as an imbalance and hegemonic. Moreover, it argued that in the name of development, the donors, Multinational Corporations, International Financial Institutions impose neo-colonialism in the third world countries. This strand identified that development is the exploitation of earth resources, destruction of ecology and environment. Finally, the thinkers of the strand criticised ‘development’ from the point of psycho-social view that ‘underdevelopment’ and ‘poverty’ are state of mind. Therefore, they totally reject development theories but rarely show path of solutions – there is no positive programme and contains only critique but no construction.

‘Beyond Development’ is synonymous to ‘alternative to development’. It is one of the potential strands in the post development thoughts which mainly focus on best practices of communities, indigenous knowledge system and local culture and traditions. Dependency theory and alternative development focus on endogenous resembles where beyond development goes for local and grassroots economy (Pieterse:2001:105).

‘Post Development’ approach or ‘critical development’ thinking is one of the prominent strands of the Post Development School. The main tool of this approach is ‘discourse’ which deconstructs ‘development’ and tries to find out the reasons of failure (Foucault:1980). Post Development thinkers deem that development based on modern science constitutes an ‘actively colonising’ power’ (Alvares, in Brigg 2002:424). Escober (1996:213) analysed that development can best be described as an apparatus that links forms of knowledge about the third world with the deployment of forms of power and invention, resulting in the mapping and production of third world societies. Analysis of discourse reveals that development as not natural or universal; west superiority; eliminating diversity; creating identity of third world and continuing colonisation of the mind and soul. Thus, Rehenma states that post development approach intended to look at the issues through the eyes of the poor; be human centre and be radical to return to the fundamentals (Rahenma and Bawtree:1997).

Impact on Theories and Practices:

Post Development theories have contributed to a lot to reshape the futures trends of orthodox development theories. As a result, modernization theory includes neo-modernization in its current themes which involves a complex understanding of modernity and a revaluation of ‘tradition’ as resource and considering co-operation between development agencies and NGOs and social groups (Pieterse:2001). Thus, future trends include generation of new modernities, and an engagement with postmodernism as a sensibility (Anand: 2009). It has already been appeared in development practice that donors as well as developed world have been changing their imperialistic and hegemonic views on the development programmes of the third world countries. Moreover, donors are now considered as development partners where hegemonic power relationship, indulgence between the developed world and the third world. Similarly, dependency theory includes the renewal of structural and relativity analysis and innovative historical revisions (Pieterse:2001). Such as, Millennium Development Goals are designed on the basis of the socio economic and historical context of the developing countries rather than the developed world which could be identified as an outcome the post development thinking. In the context of Neoclassical Economics, earlier, structural adjustment programme has been turning into the new concern to make it country-specific and user-friendly, combined with good governance and state-effectiveness (ibid). Millennium Development Goals and Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) is note worthy example where a post development approach has provided a quite good inputs because though they are developed by International Financial Institutions and Development Partners for the developing countries but they are very much more country specific development programmes focusing development local context. Moreover, post development theories have influenced the Neo-liberal ideas. Such as, the Human Development approach now extends to gender (Gender Development Index), political rights (Freedom Development Index), transparency and effectiveness of governments (Corruption Perception Index environment), sustainable human development and regional development and examines the relationship between human capital and social and cultural capital (Ananda: 2009). Post development has already placed some success evidence. Suppose ‘Micro Credit’ is one of the success stories of human development which has empowered the rural poor and women in Bangladesh including many developing countries. This programme has been awarded Noble peace prize for poverty alleviation in Bangladesh. It is one of the case of ‘subversive’ and ‘people centred’ development approach. Furthermore, post development poses a strong emphasis on bottom up thinking, non hierarchical growth strategies which consider each situation on its own context specific merits (Potter et al., 2008). In this regard, Agrawal (1995) states ‘to ignore people’s knowledge is almost to ensure failure in development’. (Pieterse:2001:89). Therefore, post development theories contributed alternative to development through local knowledge, indigenous knowledge, and practical knowledge in other cultures (Chambers:1983, Brokensha et al 1980; Hobart: 1993; Pieterse:2001).

Anti Anti-Development

Nothing is beyond criticism – this idea is basically derived from post development thoughts which eventually attack the post development thoughts. ‘Anti-development, is the extreme radical strands which rejects every models, structures and theories of development (Escober:1992; Pieterse:2001). On the contrary, post development itself is taking a shape or a model or even a structure in intellectual sphere. Thus, post development is a self contradictory paradox. Similarly, there are many other ways of its self contradictory views i.e., post development attempts to eliminates diversity and looks for homogeneity. On the other hand, it encourages, local tradition, culture (Pieterse:2001) and practices. Thus, it is a contradictory view that preserving traditions and eliminating diversity. Post development it self rather goes much with orthodox paradigm because a few of its strands are such extreme radical which is the fatal attack toward expansion of development as well as modern science. Besides, endogenousness, indigenousness and localise development approaches are sometimes dangerous because they are properly grounded yet rather some thing clusters like. Moreover, post development is very much responsible for compartmentalising the intellectual world. It may not be exaggerated that post developments approaches are something like conspiracy to the development thoughts and practice. Post development is something like ‘cul de suc’ in the paradigm of development because it criticises existing every approach, model, structure and theory of development but rarely shows the path of addressing the numerous social problems. Thus, it is a matter of question ‘the idea of [post] development stands like a ruin in the intellectual landscape (Sachs: 1992:1). While science and technological advancement is forwarding, at that moment, post developmental thinkers are pushing towards isolation and fragmentation around the world. In this age, it is difficult to address complex issues without collective efforts across the academic and geographic boundaries. Such as issues like food security, climate change, AIDS etc demands development cooperation between the West and the Orient. Colonial Anthropology was criticised for studying others culture for supporting colonial administration. Post development has been criticising development theories as ‘Westernisation’ or ‘Neo colonisation’ but post development is itself looking for ‘others’ which is in different name only i.e., local tradition and indigenous knowledge


It can be commented that still Post Development paradigm is a Pandora’s Box in the field of development theory and practice because of its unsettledness, radicalism, self contradictory approach, critics without constructive directions and keeping aloof from reality. However, in the context application and implementation perhaps Post Development theories have not achieved recognition like orthodox development theories but they have ultimately able to recognise the failure of the Orthodox theories of development i.e., poor remains poor, inequality and inequity becomes more acute. This is why, it is the great success of the post development theories to bring out the major weaknesses of the mainstream development theories to the academics, professionals, development partners and the grass root people. At the same time, it would be the great weakness that post development theories are pushing towards a guideless journey to address these problems.


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