Saturday, January 13, 2007

Po-Mo Development

The mother of all ivory towers lies in the sub-par field of post-modern development (or post-development). I would normally just spit on this and move on quickly, but alas, it is too tempting to rip this piece of crap apart on an unknown blog, and in essay format. Considering I am actually obliged to not only read all the bullshit proponents of post-Development have to say, but also must analyze and discuss their stupidity, means that a mere blog-post ripping them apart is the least I can do.

Proponents of post-Development basically question the entire field of development; they are not merely questioning the means by which development is achieved, but rather question the entire concept of development itself. Now this critical analysis is very important in a Foucault sort of way; even someone like me calls for the importance of post-structuralist analysis every once in a while. But it's not so much this aspect of post-development that twists my, it gets ugly, real quick.

Post-development theorists call for radical relativism: basically calling into question anything and everything-- from human rights, to economic growth, to technology, and yes, even science. Everything to them is a construct; there exists no grand narrative, and everything can be disputed. Now, some of this is particularly relevant: for example, Arturo Escobar (pictured left) goes into excellent detail about the construction of a 'problem'. For instance: any paper on Egypt almost always begins with a mention of how every god-damn Egyptian is populated around the Nile. This is true, but this categorizes Egyptian "problems" to simple demographic policy tools and population control. Basically, Escobar says Westerners create a problem, then go about categorizing the Third World and putting them into neat little boxes to be fixed; then, they send these boxes back to the Third World ('re-conceptualizing them'), where the elites gladly learn all this new stuff about their country that they didn't know before. Somewhere along the way Westernization happens (oh, by the way, according to them, anything Western is bad).

Then, all of a sudden, Escobar drops the bomb: "Poverty on a global scale was a discovery of the post-World War II period...poverty became an organizing concept and the object of a new problematization." Here's a newsflash for this idiot: poverty IS a can't problematize a problem; that, in itself, is problematic. Escobar goes on to talk about the invention of development post-WWII...which is false anyway, because development was 'invented' to deal with socio- economic problems in Europe post-Industrial Revolution, a fact that is well-known to anyone with half a brain (or maybe no one told Latin America yet).

This does not make any logical sense: how can you go and tell some poor African woman that it wouldn't be a problem that she can't buy any food, except "the West" had to go and make it a problem. Unfortunately, if you confront a post-Development theorist with this logic, they will most probably tell you logic is a construct, and then blabber on about ecological feminism or buddhist economics or some other useless tripe. Unfortunately, this retardation does not stop with Escobar. No, now you have wonderful catchphrases like "the art of suffering" (i.e. suffering is good for the soul), and "quality of life is more important than quantity of life" (i.e. it's okay that the life expectancy in Zimbabwe is 35...they ENJOY life more)...everything is a godamn discourse to these over-privileged idiots, including suffering, hunger, poverty, inequality, exploitation, and AIDS...most importantly AIDS.

So in essence, post-development theorists "reject" Westernization, modernization, technology, industrialization, capitalism, universal rationality, and dichotomic thinking...all of these are Western notions of what we SHOULD be...when in essence, we all want to wear burqas and beat women with sticks. Instead, social movements should aim for things like the art of suffering and quality of life, as well as, and I quote, "happiness, beauty, frugality, authenticity"...because after all, it don't matter if you got da AIDZ, all dat matter is you happy wit dat shit. Oh, please.

Before some of you hippies stop braiding each other's hair and make stupid remarks that "happiness is good, maaan", let me throw in another quote made by Esteva, another proponent of post-development:

At the risk of being accused of parochialism, cultural relativism or, worse yet, inhumane indifference to dowry deaths, clitorectomies, gay bashing and to the million other ways in which people torment and torture each other, we want to explicitly reject all contemporary attempts to globalize human rights. Their moral and philosophical foundations are increasingly suspect to us.

Frankly, this will not do. Mr. Esteva, how about you argue the same b.s. when you are born a woman in a village in Somalia, or a gay man in Egypt, or an ugly village-wife-to-be in rural India. I'm sure this wave of cultural relativism you're riding seems ultra-cool to your colleagues in university, but that shit totally doesn't fly with pretty much everyone subject to the above abuses of human rights (except perhaps, some random woman called Odhiambo in Tanzania who enjoys her clitoris being violently ripped out of her vagina). She can go screw herself too, and she won't enjoy it either.

But let's humour the bastard and see what he proposes...Esteva says, again, that the key to a good life resides in simplicity, frugality, meeting basic needs from local soils, and shitting together in the commons. I am not joking. To be fair, they do recognize that defecating together in urban areas of the South is not the pleasure that it is for some in the countryside. Nonetheless, I was tickled by their tubgirl reference.

Off the soapbox.


Eliane said...

"Esteva says, again, that the key to a good life resides in simplicity, frugality, meeting basic needs from local soils, and shitting together in the commons."

I am interested to see how, exactly, does a relevist to an extent such as this one, argue any one key to a good life?

mondpanther said...

my condolences that u have to study this...but well written!

Anyways..if everything is relative so is that very claim...