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Post Development Notes

Politics Notes > Politics of International Development Notes

This is an extract of our Post Development document, which we sell as part of our Politics of International Development Notes collection written by the top tier of University Of Warwick students.

The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our Politics of International Development Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:

*Cross-reference - PO203 Private Sector Development; Sustainable Development; Conditional Cash Transfers & Health // PO217


1. Does the study of development invoke a colonial mentality?

2. Does the Third World still exist? [2016]

3. Is there 'poverty pornography' in international development discourse?

4. Are post-development scholars right to claim that development has failed?


Although the term 'development' has been in common usage for over 200 years, its contemporary articulation is frequently credited to President Harry Truman's inaugural address on January 20, 1949:
'We must embark on a bold new programme 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'. (see: POST-DEVELOPMENT)

'Development' is a master concept, broadly defined as 'an unfolding or maturation process that is considered natural,
knowable and desirable'.
Alan Thomas distinguishes between three subsidiary meanings of 'development':

i. A vision, description of (quantitative) measure of the 'desirable', e.g. SDGs*

ii. 'Little-d' development: an ongoing process of social change to enhance human fulfillment iii.
'Big-D' Development: the deliberate efforts aimed at improvement on the part of various agencies,
including government, international organizations and social movements.
The more this 'desirable' condition is made explicit, the more open it becomes to the charge of Western-centric bias and reductionism. Why should development refer to a national income per capita of US$1.90 per day
(World Bank poverty threshold)? Isn't there more to this? Yet, without specification, it risks becoming mere tautology; i.e. development is what 'developed countries' are.

Cowen & Shenton note: 'Development comes to be defined in a multiplicity of ways because there are a multiplicity of 'developers' who are entrusted with the task of development'; within which only a select few (i.e.
multilateral development agencies) have sufficient agenda-setting power for their interpretation of
'development' to be effectively imposed on others.


Development has always been ambiguous; on the one hand, being virtually synonymous with 'progress' and on the other, denoting intentional efforts to 'ameliorate the disordered faults of progress' [Cowen & Shenton]


The ultimate character of development (studies) is postcolonial* as it seeks to empower the Subaltern by revoking colonial matrices of power in favor of national development and indigenous methodologies. According to White, power lies not with sovereign states, but with international capital which 'derives from, and gives to, technological means and cultural logics disparate from those that characterized colonialism proper'.
The Afro-Asian Bandung Conference (1955) championed self-determination and solidarity in Third Worldism. It viewed development as 'a liberatory human aspiration to attain freedom from the political, economic,
ideological, epistemological and social domination installed by colonialism and coloniality' [Mkandawire]
We live in an era of crass exploitation of suffering for commercial gain. Images of buzzing flies, begging eyes and bloated bellies permeate mass media in an attempt to elicit visceral response from viewers and garner donations. This strategy, widely described as the 'pornography of poverty', is prevalent among aid organizations; the motives behind which is 'to cox, cajole and bludgeon donations from a guilt-ridden Northern public' [Smillie].

In Foucauldian terms, poverty pornography has created a 'regime of truth' about the Third World that mediates subsequent North-South dialogue and stokes the superiority complex of Northern publics as 'benevolent donors' and
'surrogate parents' to their 'helpless', 'child-like' Southern counterparts. In short, Northern 'selves' possess agency whereas Southern 'others' do not; or possess limited agency conditional on sustained Northern attention/aid.
'Unlike consumer advertising, we don't pay to join in. We pay to keep away' [Rutherford]

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