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Development as Western Hegemony

Development as Western Hegemony

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Published by Frances Tay
Development is a process whereby peoples are dominated and their destinies shaped according to an essentially Western way of conceiving and perceiving the world. This is a critical analysis of development. Is it a tool for Western hegemony or is there more to the post-modernist and post-constructionist view?
Development is a process whereby peoples are dominated and their destinies shaped according to an essentially Western way of conceiving and perceiving the world. This is a critical analysis of development. Is it a tool for Western hegemony or is there more to the post-modernist and post-constructionist view?

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Published by: Frances Tay on Mar 17, 2008
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Frances Tay McHugh (fran@321-connect.com)
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Development is a process whereby peoples are dominated and their destinies shapedaccording to an essentially Western way of conceiving and perceiving the world.This is a critical analysis of development. Is it a tool for Western hegemony or isthere more to the post-modernist and post-constructionist view?
Does development shape peoples’ realities? Is it a tool for Western hegemony, a meansby which Western ideals are foisted on to the non-Western world? There are no simpleanswers to these questions. That the West has dominated development discourses isexpected given the historical evolution of the world order since the post-war era.However, the diversity of development thinking is evidence that development is not aprocess of simple transmission of foreign ideals. Instead, a distinction must be madebetween development theories, strategies and thinking. We argue that culture remains thedominant source of influence on peoples’ conceptions and perceptions and selectiveacculturation prevents domination by a homogenous perspective, Western or otherwise.
Development Theories, Strategies and Thinking
Development is a loaded term. Often, it is perceived in a positive light, as a desirable andprogressive process (Esteva, 1992). It has been linked to disparate ideas, including raisingstandards of living, improvements in the general well-being of people, environmentalsustainability and globalisation (Willis, 2005). Potter (2002), in referring to Hettne(1995), suggests that the term development comprises three elements: developmenttheories, strategies and ideologies. Development theories relate to the study of development, how it has been implemented, the lessons learnt and implications for future
 
Frances Tay McHugh (fran@321-connect.com)
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direction. Development strategies refer to the practices, tools and techniques used fordevelopment intervention purposes, while development ideologies reflect “social,economic, political, cultural, ethical, moral and even religious influences” (p. 62) whichinform all three. To encompass these three aspects, the term “development thinking” asemployed by Potter (2002), will be utilised. The purpose of making these distinctionsclear is to acknowledge that development is multidimensional and multi-spatial in nature.We cannot consider the impact of development on people’s thinking, livelihoodsand ultimately, potential destinies, without first acknowledging that the term developmentcarries different connotations depending on the context for discussion. For example, it isoften suggested that development is a Western construct, a result of the developmentpolicies pursued and imposed by the West in the aftermath of the Second World War(Esteva, 1992; Dodds, 2002). This view is certainly accurate, if one is examining theevolution of development as a discipline, since “most… theoretical categories and guideto development policy have been distilled from… European and North Americanadvanced capitalist nations” (Frank, 1995, p. 27). On the other hand, to suggest thatdevelopment thinking is a Western invention is to assume that non-Western nationsneither had the inclination nor the capacity to develop autonomously. To do so would bean error for as Escobar (1995b) reminds us, non-Western peoples have “rich traditions,different values and lifestyles, and long historical achievements” (Escobar, 1995b, p. 69).We can use the case of Meiji Japan to illustrate. Between 1868 and 1911, industrialgrowth was characterised by structural changes that would be familiar to the moderndevelopment economist. To facilitate economic growth, the Meiji government employeda raft of market interventions, including subsidies to merchants, establishing a financial
 
Frances Tay McHugh (fran@321-connect.com)
3/14
 
market framework to promote the provision of credit, and instituting a land tax reform toredistribute land and raise taxes (Agov, 2002).To reiterate and clarify, the reason for providing the above illustrations is topropose that there is a differentiation between development in terms of what is logicallyrationalised, formulated, planned and implemented (theories and strategies) anddevelopment as it is understood and experienced (ideologies). The way in which peopleencounter, negotiate and adapt to development interventions are dictated by thedevelopment ideologies which inform that culture. That is, how we conceptualise andperceive the world is a reflection of culture, the“integrated pattern of human behaviour that includes thoughts, communications,languages, practices, beliefs, values, customs, courtesies, rituals, manners of interacting and roles, relationships and expected behaviours of a racial, ethnic,religious or social group; and the ability to transmit the above to succeedinggenerations.” (Goode, Sockalingam, Brown, & Jones, 2000, p. 1)Hofstede (2001) has suggested that the way people think, feel and act cannot bechanged by the mere importation of foreign institutions. At the core of culture are values,norms and belief systems that are unique to a particular collective’s historicalexperiences. Rather than a wholesale assimilation and displacement of local culture, thereis “nothing inevitable about convergences of cultural, social, or political values” (Ball,2005). Instead, there is evidence to support the adaptation of foreign influence in a waythat results in selective acculturation (Hall, 1976). In the following section, we willexplore the development process from the perspective of divergences in development

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