Monday, June 25, 2018

Cooper and Packard, Revisited

I've already written up a summary of Cooper, Fred and Randall Packard. 1997. “Introduction” in Cooper and Packard, International development and the social sciences: essays on the history and politics of knowledge.

I'm revisiting it as I study to re-take the prelim. I'm not going to summarize the entire article this time. Instead I am focusing on the particular details pertinent to the question I will need to answer on my test.

I found this quote very powerful:

"The state in "less developed countries" and international agencies such as the World Bank each find a role by accepting each other's: the national government allocates development resources and portrays itself as the agent of modernity, while outside agencies legitimately intervene in sovereign states by defining their services as benevolent, technical, and politically neutral. Both are content with development as a process which depoliticizes and disempowers local populations; both portray poverty as "aboriginal," disconnected from the history which gave rise to unequal access to resources; both are content with an expertise-driven structure of development; both are reinforced by failure as much as success" (p. 3).

It's summarizing the ideas of Ferguson (1990) and it appears to be lobbed at neoliberalism in particular.

I also like the point that the concept of development is ambiguous "eliding in a single concept the notions of increased output and improved welfare" (p. 4).

Cooper and Packard then get into history, beginning with how Great Britain and France turned to development as an idea that would carry forward their interests in the Global South once colonialism began to be challenged.

Here is a quote I like that seems to be particularly lobbed at modernization theory and perhaps neoliberalism:

"Within particular domains the development construct has become a framework that rationalizes and naturalizes the power of advanced capitalism in progressivist terms - as the engine bringing those on the bottom "up" toward those who are already there" (p. 12).

This article also has some useful critique of dependency theory:
"While there was wide consensus on the importance of trends in the global economy, simple Marxist explanations based on the logic of global capitalism or the power of dominant classes runs into the problem that development interventions appear precisely where the logic of capitalism fails to produce results that political elites desire" (p. 20).

Much of the article focuses on how various development theories came about and gained acceptance or lost favor. While it's an interesting and useful article, that isn't what I'll need to write about on my exam.

Another interesting bit, this one on neoliberalism, says:

"The strong stress on market discipline sits rather uneasily with the other major trend among the powerful development institutions: their concern with "governance" and the imposition of political conditions - some from of democratization - on the provision of aid. Compelling as many of the critiques of government corruption, clientelism, and incompetence are, it is not clear that imposed austerity helps build political capacity" (p. 22). "The insistence on "good government" reproduces much that was previously said about the "good economy": a bland assertion that the West has defined objective standards for others to meet, a generalized set of categories (elections, multiple parties) that define those standards, irrespective of the actual debates that might be going on in specific contexts over how more people might acquire meaningful voice in their own lives" (p. 23).

I stopped reading at page 24.

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