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REVISITING THE MACHINE: AN INQUIRY INTO THE STATE OF

DEVELOPMENT DISCOURSE

J. Quinn
ABSTRACT: At the end of the Second World War, the Bretton Woods Agreements were
reached in order to formulate a strategy for rebuilding war-torn Europe. Two of the most
important organizations that were created with these agreements were the World Bank
and the International Monetary Fund, both of which were, in their original incarnations,
designed to make and manage loans to affected countries for the rebuilding of
infrastructure and trade. Largely successful in this respect, these organizations turned
their attentions to the alleviation of poverty among Europe’s former colonies in the
1960’s, and later expanded their focus to more intensive measures of debt management
via policies known as structural adjustment program or SAPs during the 1980’s and
1990’s. It was during this period that scholars began to question the efficacy of
development as a solution to poverty-especially as executed by the Bretton Woods
Institutions. Among the most vocal of criticisms, James Ferguson’s “The Anti-Politics
Machine” stands out as an exemplar of this perspective, and it is the purpose of this paper
to see what effect, if indeed any, this re-assessment of development has had on the
policies of the Bretton Woods Institutions, and on the discourse of development as a
whole. This will be accomplished by an analysis and comparison of various examples of
relevant research representing the various points of view and chronological eras
discussed in Ferguson’s work, and also through the analysis and comparison of current
relevant material (Ferguson, James 2001, Clapp, Jennifer and Dauvergne, Peter 2005,
Edelman, Marc and Haugerud, Angelique 2007, Escobar, Arturo 2007, 1995).

KEY WORDS: DEVELOPMENTALITY, NEOPATRIMONIALISM,
STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT PROGRAM, GOVERNMENTALITY,
ETATIZATION

The idea of development in the sense it is used today has its roots in the beginning
of the Industrial Revolution, intimately bound up in the theories of Hegel, Marx, and
other contemporary European philosophers. The idea of progress was used as a way to
make sense of, and sometimes justify, the radical changes occurring as a result of the
industrial revolution (Edelman and Haugerud 2007).
The conceptualization of development evolved alongside the nature of world
governance, and at the end of the Second World War, as the dominant European powers
faced the end of their colonial empire, development was re-imagined as a way to
“improve” the economies of the soon-to-be “independent” nations, essentially
establishing a dependent relationship that would in many cases continue up to the present
day (Edelman and Haugerud 2007).
During this transformative period, the World Bank and International Monetary
Fund (IMF) were created with the Breton Woods Agreement by delegates representing
forty-five nations after a series of negotiations conducted under the auspices of the
United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference. The agreement, which took place in
1944 at Breton Woods, New Hampshire, was negotiated to aid in the rebuilding, growth
and liberalization of economies and trade policies between member states, and to
standardize terms of trade and exchange. Focusing first on the former colonial powers of
Europe and their neighbors, and later on in what would soon be referred to as the “third”
world (Africa, Asia, and Latin America), the International Bank for Reconstruction and
Development (which would soon become the World Bank), the IMF, and the United
Nations implemented a series of policies and projects ostensibly designed to stimulate
and stabilize the global economy, which they were indeed relatively successful in doing;
however, these projects and policies, heavily influenced on the theories of the British
economist John Maynard Keynes, were not without problems (Edelman and Haugerud
2007, Clapp and Dauvergne 2005).
Keynesian economics, advocating state-level intervention designed to foster the
expansion of economies spurred by an influx of public monies, not only succeeded in
rehabilitating the ravaged economies of post-war Europe, it also dovetailed nicely with
popular notions of the necessity of bringing “development” to “undeveloped” or
“underdeveloped” nations (the vast majority of whom had previously been engaged in
some sort of colonial relationship with the “developed” nations). This problematization of
the state of economies in formerly colonial states was firmly rooted in the Euro-American
philosophies of “progress”, envisioning the West as the sole valid authority on the shape
and direction of these “backward” peoples in need of assistance from those “in the
know”, subtly shifting the “white man’s burden” of “civilizing the savages” to the backs
of the governments of the newly “freed” brown men. Additionally, a number of
unforeseen or underestimated issues would later complicate the approach of the Bretton
Woods Institutions (BWI) (Edelman and Haugerud 2007, Clapp and Dauvergne 2005,
Ferguson 2005, Escobar 2007, 1995).
In the early 1970’s, a series of economic events took place that led the United States to
disassociate its’ currency from the price of gold, which, at the time, was the basis for the
BWI’s standardization of exchange. This eventually led the BWI and most “first world”
economies to adopt a synthesis of classical economics and political conservatism
(minimal government) that would eventually be known as neoliberalism. This basically
entailed abandoning much of the state-level interventionist policies of Keynesian
economics and further liberalizing international trade barriers, allowing the market to
dictate the direction and focus of development and other issues, which, in turn, it was
theorized, would enable the optimized economies of the affected states to focus on the
elimination of poverty through development (Edelman and Haugerud 2007, Clapp and
Dauvergne 2005).
The economic crises that engendered the adoption of these policies, however, most
severely impacted the “third world” states, causing many of these nations to go heavily
into debt to stave off economic collapse; in the following two decades, the BWI devised
and implemented, along with the governments of these most-affected states, a
methodology known as “structural adjustment programs”, designed to radically
restructure the economies of these states along neoliberal lines. This was done primarily
through the devaluation of currency to encourage foreign investment and trade, removal
of subsidies, tariffs, and other trade barriers, and minimalization or elimination of state
expenditures and services; however, the confluence of economic crises and radical
economic restructuring combined with the removal of government services, poor
governance, and myriad other issues resulted in the immediate exacerbation of the
problems of the already marginalized populaces in question, particularly in Africa. The
resulting degradation in standards of living that derived from such programs of fiscal
austerity caused a tremendous backlash in the mid to late 1990’s, and resulted in
significant re-assessment of not only neoliberalism, but of the nature of development
itself. One of the earliest and most critical examples of this re-assessment took shape in
the form of James Ferguson’s work, “The Anti-Politics Machine”, to which we now turn
(Edelman and Haugerud 2007, Clapp and Dauvergne 2005).
Focusing on the small, resource-poor, mountainous nation of Lesotho, Ferguson’s
research systematically deconstructs and analyzes the relationship between the
government of Lesotho, its’ citizens, and the various bi- and multi-lateral aid
organizations and states that operate under the aegis of the World Bank, International
Monetary Fund, and other proponents of development (Ferguson 2001).
Contrary to many people’s initial impression, the work is not a categorical rejection of
development in and of itself, but rather an analysis of how the discourse of development
and development institutions-a process that would later be termed developmentality- had
(and to some extent, continue to have) a tendency to see a given state as needing the
services their programs provide, regardless of, and sometimes contrary to, evidence of
this being the case. Furthermore, he outlines the actual effects of this tendency, which is
the disconnection of the state from its’ historical, environmental and cultural past, and the
expansion and strengthening of development-friendly bureaucracies within or comprising
the governments of these states, and the resulting re-alignment of the political elite with
the interests of the agents of development, often at the expense of the interests of the
governed, a phenomenon that would later be coined neopatrimonialism (Ferguson 2001,
Cliffe, Lionel 2006).
Ferguson accomplishes this first by noting the sheer size of the development
“industry” present in the relatively minuscule state of Lesotho (at least seventy-two
NGO’s disbursing the aid of at least twenty-seven nations!) over a nine year period,
mostly in the shape of rural development initiatives, nearly all of which have failed to
meet their own criteria for success. Neatly sidestepping the debate of whether
development (which he delineates into the two conceptualizations outlined earlier-
growing economies versus poverty elimination) creates or solves poverty, he instead
redirects the focus to what the agents-and the discourse-of development actually do
accomplish in measurable, tangible ways. Drawing on the works of Foucault, among
others, he elucidates how interventions can-and do-have unintended or unacknowledged
effects (Ferguson 2001).
He begins in earnest by comparing a number of academic analyses of both
contemporary and historical Lesotho/Basutoland (as it was called prior to gaining
independence from Great Britain in 1966) with an account produced by the World Bank,
which obviously differ greatly in their interpretations of Lesotho. His intention is to
suggest that the academic and developmental discourses are separate, and as such bear no
resemblance to one another. This is not to say that the academics were incorrect with their
assessment-they weren’t, as my own research confirmed-but rather that the discourse of
development was primarily concerned with something else, something that depended
more on the implementation of its solutions more than factual accuracy. He also takes
care to illustrate the portrayal by the World Bank report of Lesotho as a sort of isolated
microcosm where poverty exists due to a lack of development, where development will
succeed or fail dependent on the governance of Lesotho. This portrayal conveniently
ignores the pronounced economic dependence of Lesotho on South Africa, in addition to
a host of social and environmental factors and the fact that such attempts at development
had in fact been attempted in the past, to no avail (Ferguson 2001).
Ferguson continues to show further inconsistencies between the World Bank
report’s analysis of the situation and the socio-political reality of Lesotho, noting the
futility of such suggestions as population emigration in light of the fact that Lesotho’s
only neighboring state, South Africa, effectively determines the rate of emigration, which,
at the time of his paper, was nil. Furthermore, statistics that at one point are called
“unreliable” and “virtually non-existent” are later called on to support evidence of a “lack
of development”, alongside other passages that state that “traditionally, South Africa has
provided employment to a large part of Lesotho’s labor force”. This is completely at odds
with the earlier assertion of Lesotho’s “traditional subsistence peasant economy” unless
one redefines the words of any of the statements to the point it essentially becomes
pointless to even bother with using them. Ferguson compares, at length, a number of
other inconsistencies and seemingly invented statistics and categories which, if nothing
else, serve to paint Lesotho as a “less developed country” or LDC (Ferguson 2001).
Ferguson makes the case, rather convincingly, that the purpose for this portrayal is
to represent Lesotho as “a nation of farmers, not wage laborers; a country with
geography, but no history; with people, but no classes; values, but no structures;
administrators, but no rulers; bureaucracy, but no politics” so that “one arrives at a picture
of a basically agricultural economy which, although potentially prosperous, is now
producing under primitive, ancient conditions lacking basic infrastructure and modern
techniques, and so has been unable to accommodate recent population growth.” The
solution, in light of such “facts”, almost goes without saying, as Ferguson contends is the
intention-whether conscious or not-of the analysts (Ferguson 2001).
The author summarizes his interpretation of the World Bank reports’-and the
discourse of development as a whole-as follows:
1. The subject state must be aboriginal, in need of modernization via the introduction of
infrastructure.
2. The economy must be primarily agricultural, in need of modern agricultural methods
and technology.
3. The economy must be a self-contained, independent, national economy capable of
being modified and modernized to make the necessary changes needed in order to bring
the economy into the domain of global commerce.
4. The state must have the ability to make said changes to the economy and society along
the principles of governmentality (Ferguson 2001).
Ferguson claims these criteria are necessary to for a state to fit the technically
oriented, apolitical model required for a development intervention within the domain of
the discourse of development (as opposed to the discourse of governance), and that this
blueprint-like schematic is applied more often-if not always- as a sort of solution looking
for problem, rather than the reverse. As such, a brief analysis of contemporary and
historical sources which represent the perspectives portrayed by Ferguson should,
according to his interpretation, support this position (Ferguson 2001).
According to “Agricultural and Pastoral Prospects of South Africa” (1904) by
Owen Thomas, the entire South African region was of more use pastorally-and this not
even taking into account the specifically mountainous region of Basutoland-than
agriculturally, as it could not compete in the global market in terms of cost of production.
Contrary to developmental models of economic diversification, he recommends the focus
of the economy be pastoral, as the retention of native flora that is grazed upon by
livestock at least maintains-if not improves-the quality of the land, as opposed to
agriculture, which in his experience rapidly destroys it. He also noted the prevalence-
though relatively recent at the dawn of the twentieth century-of foreign investment banks
throughout South Africa, there to bankroll the agricultural ventures of European
colonists. He notes-in an admittedly Anglo-centric and racist passage, that the natives
practice minimal agriculture-ignoring the fact they also recognize the futility of
agricultural ventures-and relates that-in at least some native cultures-agriculture is viewed
as exclusively women’s work. He remarks upon the marked tendency for most native
men to sell their labor to mine owners, and the difficulty if not impossibility of importing
other, more “efficient” labor to replace them (Thomas, Owen and Rolfe, Frederick 1904).
Further on, he narrows the scope specifically to Basutoland, beginning by
commenting on the austere, barren condition of the mountainous country. In contrast to
his earlier observations on the natives and means of subsistence of the whole of South
Africa, he observes the intelligence of the indigenous inhabitants, and their propensity for
agriculture, much of which is destined for export. He also notes the substantial native
migrant labor relationship with European-owned mines, and the communally-held land
tenure system (Thomas and Rolfe, 1904).
Minnie Martin’s “Basutoland: Its Legends and Customs” (1903) commences with
a brief history of the Basuto. Beginning with the grandfather of Moshoeshoe I, Tokoana
Makhuatha, Martin then continues to follow the development and consolidation of the
Basuto state under Moshoeshoe I, arriving at the time of its authorship under the reign of
Moshoeshoe’s grandson Lerotholi. Martin corroborates Owen’s description of Basutoland
as a mountainous, treeless country, adding that the British government has spent large
sums to encourage timber farming (without comment on its efficacy, unfortunately) and
the eagerness of the Basuto to attempt any sort of agricultural venture (Martin, Minnie,
1903).
She continues by describing the transhumanescent process, and the necessity of
removing the livestock to higher altitudes in winter to more fertile (for grazing) higher
altitudes. In agreement with Owen, she notes the abundantly successful agricultural
ventures of the Basuto, especially when coupled with European technical knowledge
(Martin, 1903).
She then continues to relate the geographical and geological make-up of
Basutoland, pointing out the Basuto being savvy enough to realize the danger of
Europeans being aware of the presence of diamonds on their territory. Later, she relates
their cultural customs, concurring with Owen in describing most of the work being done
by women-though the harvest was apparently a community activity-and the presence of,
desire for, and effects of European trade-goods, as well as the significant agricultural
export trade with Europeans. Also of note is the disallowance of white settlement, and
alcoholic beverages besides the indigenous home-brews found in many cultures around
the world, and her opinion that this clearly shows that increased contact for the Basuto
would be a disaster. Particularly interesting is her observation of the impact on the
household-and most specifically the women who assume control of it-that the migrant
labor their husbands engage in at the South African mines and railways (Martin 1903).
Martin’s observations zeroed in on some of the key issues which would most
profoundly affect the Basuto for the next several generations. At the time of Ferguson’s
“Anti-Politics Machine”, nine decades after she made her surprisingly prescient study of
the Basuto, the complex relationship created by the tradition of transnational male
migrant labor and the often conflicted roles this created for Basuto women would
continue to be important academic concerns. One study dating from this period, written
by Mamoliehi Mphi in 1994, notes the cultural minefield traversed by Basuto women,
who are forced to turn to the production and sale of alcohol in the informal economy to
support themselves and their families in the absence of the adult men in their family, yet
are simultaneously considered to be unfit wives if they appear to abuse this commodity
themselves-regardless of the behavior of their husbands. This double standard has its
origins in the expectation that women are subordinate to the men of the household, and
results in a culturally reinforced stigmatization of women who cannot “control
themselves”, causing many women and their families to cover up what might be seen as
unacceptable behavior (resulting in a lack of treatment), and causing those who cannot
manage to hide their alcoholism to the find their situation further complicated by social
conventions that regard them as permanently unfit marriage partners and employees. It
does not take a degree in economics to understand the impossibility of solving deeply-
entrenched cultural problems such as this with production-oriented strategies implicit in
the BWI’s conceptualization of development approaches critiqued by Ferguson (Mphi
1994, Martin 1903).
One particularly outstanding study conducted in the same period, authored by
Khabele Matlosa, traces the history of foreign aid-and its effects-from the end of the
colonial era to the time of its’ publication at the end of the 1990’s. Matlosa takes special
care to elucidate the influence of politics-both local and global-on development and aid in
Lesotho (Matlosa 1999).
The author begins by dividing the thirty year period into three roughly decade-
long periods with distinctive overall trends. The first of these periods, 1966-1976,
discusses how the end of the colonial period increased the flow of aid to Lesotho, and the
causal drivers behind this phenomenon; the second period, 1976-1986, is concerned with
the Transkei border conflicts and the seizure of political power in Lesotho by the military,
and the interface between these events and the disbursement of aid. The final period
analyzes the broader context of global trends in the conceptualization of the development
apparatus, and its effect on Lesotho, along with the problems created by these trends
(Matlosa 1999).
Matlosa notes the state of Lesotho owes the current state of its affairs-and
independence from South Africa-to a complex series of political processes. He explains
how the Basuto were unwilling to join into union with South Africa due to a series of
relatively recent military conflicts with their neighbors, and the resulting loss of prime
agricultural territory, as well as the general opposition to be subject to South African
policies of Apartheid. Additionally, the vested interest of the political elite to maintain
their hold on power, as well as their belief that union would undermine the long-term
health of the Basuto people was cited (Matlosa 1999).
From here, Matlosa connects the historical tendency of Basutoland/Lesotho to
serve as a labor reserve for South African mines with the comparatively (though notably
extant) small pre-independence flow of aid, citing the lack of congruence between the
conflicting goals of developing local economic independence and maintaining cheap
labor for major South African industrial interests; this is then used to explain how the
post-colonial period’s initial primary source of aid-the United Kingdom-was primarily
used to maintain and entrench the ruling parties’ grip on power, and represents the second
general period outlined by Matlosa. This in turn set the stage for an increased flow of aid
from sources other than the United Kingdom-particularly the World Bank-for large-scale
“area-based” agricultural and rural development projects, ostensibly designed to alleviate
poverty through economic growth. Unfortunately, these projects were a resounding
failure, in part for the reasons explained in “The Anti-Politics Machine”, as well as
because of the widespread corruption both within the government agencies charged with
the execution of these projects, and from without via dishonest contractors, the bulk of
which were South African. Other reasons cited were the lack of input from local
communities, many of the cultural constraints discussed in the Mphi study, and the
ubiquitous, rent-seeking, constituency-building politicians co-opting the flow of aid to
support their own goals (Matlosa 1999, Mphi 1994).
The collapse of the large-scale development approach coincided with-and
likely influenced-the BWI’s abandonment of state-level interventionism in favor of
neoliberal market-optimization policies in the mid-to-late 1980’s, representing the third
period outlined by Matlosa. This period saw a marked increase in food aid from the
U.N.’sWorld Food Program and other donors, in part to buttress the failures of the
previous decades’ approach, and also to address a series of droughts that occurred at this
time. Essentially, this approach did not address issues of long term food security, and may
have even exacerbated them by devaluing the worth of the local agricultural harvest
(Matlosa 1999).
The question this research raises when analyzing this period-as well as the
historical process leading up to-raises important questions alluded to in Ferguson’s work;
Matlosa presents data showing a near collapse of aid to government-administered
development projects in this period alongside an increase in NGO-administered
development projects of as much as 100%. (He also connects somewhat tangential but
contextually relevant developments to this process-the demise of the South African policy
of apartheid, coinciding with the end of the cold war and internal civil and military unrest
coalesced to make Lesotho a much less desirable aid client.) This fits the general trend of
eliminating governmental interventions as a means of implementing long-term economic
transformation that were prevalent in this time, which criticized the problems that arise
through the bureaucratic and corrupt administration of development projects by states
with poor governance and little accountability-a phenomena referred to as “etatization”
by Ferguson. However, both Ferguson, Matlosa, and other critics of etatization point out
that although NGOs may indeed have increased access to and concern for the poor, as
well as a greater ability to engage them, they are in truth perhaps even less accountable
than marginally democratic regimes as they are primarily beholden to their financiers and
the cultural contexts these organizations arose in, equally if not more unaccountable to
the population they serve; they may also lack the time or willingness to gain the deep
understanding necessary for such projects to succeed, and as such operate outside the
domain of the cultures they are trying to transform (Matlosa 1999, Ferguson 2001).
Ultimately, Matlosa concedes that foreign aid was indeed helpful in many ways to
Lesotho, with its absence encouraging democracy in times of internal distress, and its
liberal application in the form of food aid during droughts undoubtedly saving many
lives. However, he asserts that this assortment of approaches to development have
effectively done nothing in terms of addressing the structural causes of issues like poverty
and food insecurity, and may have even made them worse in some situations; this in turn
raises another question-whether these criticisms have in fact had any effect on the
policies of the apparatus of development in Lesotho-to which we will now turn (Matlosa
1999).
According to the 2008 edition of “Britannica World Data: Nations of the World”,
Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy with a population (2007) of just over two million
people (this figure includes citizens working abroad in South African mines), with just
under one quarter of them living in urban areas (2006). It notes the populace being almost
evenly split between male and female (2006), with a birth rate about five percent over the
global average (2006), and a death rate nearly three times the global average of 8.6 per
one thousand (2006). Life expectancy is a fairly depressing 40.4 years for men, and-
surprisingly, compared to western nations where women commonly have longer life
expectancies- only 39.1 years for women (2006). Infant mortality is listed at a fairly high
81.3 deaths per 1000 live births (2006), and the doctor/patient ratio (2003) is listed as
1/16298-a nearly inconceivable scenario for most people living in the global North. It is
also estimated that 23.1 percent of the adult population (2005) is infected with the AIDS
virus (compared to the global average of just one percent), making it the leading cause of
death (2002), at eight times the rate of the next closest cause, heart disease (Britannica
2008).
Furthermore, Lesotho’s economy is described (for the years 2004-2006) as having
total revenue of over four billion dollars, and expenditures of approximately 3.76 billion
dollars (of which education and community services take up nearly a third, and interest
payments make up 4.2 percent). The public debt (2005)-647 billion dollars-would take
approximately twenty years to pay down if current rates of interest, repayment, and
income remained the same through this period, assuming no more debts (an incredibly
unlikely scenario) were accrued (Britannica 2008).
Manufacturing, agriculture, and construction are the three leading sectors of the
GDP (2005), and remittances from mining are included in the data, though they make up
a comparatively small portion (about two percent compared to between 14 and 17 percent
for the three leaders) of the total GDP. GNI (2006) is listed at nearly 1.75 billion dollars,
or 876 per capita. Nearly 66 percent of the land is used for pasture, while only about
eleven percent is used for agriculture (2003). As such, Lesotho continues to be a major
net importer of food, with about fifteen percent of total imports being foodstuffs (1999),
and Lesotho’s major export partners remain the South African Customs Union (which
South Africa makes up the largest part of) and the United States (2004). Strangely, no
figures are available for average household income, or expenditures on housing, yet
precise figures for food, clothing, alcohol and tobacco products and home furnishings are
broken down to the tenth of a percent (2000); such juxtapositions are strikingly
reminiscent of the inconsistencies found in Ferguson’s work. Ironically enough, these
discrepancies are acknowledged-if not fully explained-by World Bank policy analyses,
though in fairness, they also deal with the subject matter in much greater detail
(Britannica 2008, Ng, Francis and Yates, Alexander 2003)
According to the World Banks’ “Lesotho at a Glance”, Lesotho’s population is
only 1.8 million (2006), conflicting with estimates of the Britannica World Data Report,
which can probably be explained by the apparent discounting of the mineworkers (there
is no mention of them). The leading sectors of the GDP are relatively in agreement with
the Britannica assessment, placing agriculture behind a “super” sector that combines
manufacturing and “industry”, that, when broken down into separate components are
roughly equivalent to the earlier figures (2006). GNI is listed at a more optimistic 1.9
billion, or 1,090 per capita (2006). Public debt is listed at a slightly more imposing 690
billion for the year 2005 (World Bank/Lesotho 2007, Britannica 2008).
The World Banks’ assessment of the current state of Lesotho’s health care is
notably bleaker; life expectancy for both sexes is listed at only 35 years, and infant
mortality is listed at 102 deaths per 1000 live births (2000-2006) (World Bank/ Lesotho).
Although the discrepancies between The Britannica and World Bank assessments
can be explained by the difference in time and criteria used in measurement as well as by
error, it is interesting to note that the World Bank analysis portrays-simultaneously-a
more optimistic economic outlook and graver health analysis. This could be interpreted as
both justifying the need for further/continued development programs, and to explain (and
require) a nearly 10 percent increase in public debt. One could indeed draw the
conclusion that the self-perpetuating, bureaucratic component of development has merely
shifted its’ focus to providing “aid” in the form of addressing the declining overall state
of health care that were-at least in part-created by the failed attempts at economic
development and market liberalization in the last two decades. Regardless of the veracity
of such an interpretation, it is clear that an endless cycle of failed “development”
constitutes the antithesis of progress by any definition, and calls for a comprehensive re-
assessment of any programs that place the populations they are designed to help in the
long term at increased risk in the short term. As has been shown by a number of recent
studies across disciplines within the social sciences (Farmer, Paul, 2005, Baro, Mamadou
and Deubel, Tara F. 2006, Cliffe 2006), the economic health of a given state is
inseparably tied to its’ physical health, and any program that attempts to address one
without the other is not only doomed to failure, it may even be worse than doing nothing
(World Bank/Lesotho 2007, Britannica 2008).
Current World Bank approaches show clear signs of making efforts to address the
critical assessment of the “cookie cutter” approach it employed in the 1980’s and 1990’s;
recent policy analyses, for instance, elucidate the integral part the economy of South
Africa plays in interacting with Lesotho’s, and even expands the focus to the impact of
the global market-a significant change from the isolated perspective of Lesotho’s
economy Ferguson attacks in “The Anti-Politics Machine”. Especially notable is the
inclusion of “quality” of governance as a critical factor in their assessment-though what
criteria are used to arrive at “good” governance is not alluded to. Still, the recognition
that politics has a role-and a significant one, at that-is a major step toward creating
functional solutions to problems that affect the people of Lesotho. However, the analysis
is still heavily dependent on heuristic devices, using “comparator” countries with similar
geographic and economic criteria as models, even though political and “other” factors are
given at least nominal consideration. (Interestingly, Nepal is not among the landlocked
“comparator” states employed-one of Ferguson’s criticisms notes that Nepal could easily
be substituted for Lesotho in the portrayal of the World Bank Country Report he uses as
his primary source-though Bhutan is.) Also, the conceptualization of development-as-
trade-liberalization is still the dominant perspective, taking precedence over
development-as-improved-access-to-entitlements (e.g. health, education, and food
security) as a viable alternative (Ng and Yates, 2003, Ferguson 2001).
Curiously, the World Bank invited Dr. Ferguson to speak at one of its’ SDV/DEC
social science and policy seminars in 2007; Ferguson’s research was considered
important because of its assessment of the

“concern with the political, broadly conceived, and with the relation between specific
social and cultural processes and the abstract narratives of “development” and
“modernization” through which such processes have so often been known and
understood”;

Noting his foci on the conceptualizations of modernity, the impact of structural
adjustment, and interestingly, the phenomenon of government-by-NGO, the seminar is
further described as addressing how the decline of traditional labor roles of urban sub-
Saharan Africans-due the growth of the informal economy-necessitates a re-assessment of
conceptualizing “production” as a tool in the analysis of these economies (World
Bank/Social Development 2007).
The acknowledgement of the importance of the perspectives of Ferguson and
other critics of the shortcomings of development-as-trade-liberalization may be a recent
phenomenon within the World Bank, and is likely due to a number of factors, of which
bureaucratic momentum is likely not the least; still, the active inclusion of such a vocal
critic of World Bank policy signifies a major break from the past-at least in terms of the
discursive elements of policy formulation. Whether or not Ferguson’s and his
contemporaries’ criticisms are seriously considered in actual programs remains to be
seen.
A more significant and visible response to the criticisms of development-as-trade
liberalization can be found in the programs of the Department For International
Development’s (DFID), the branch of government in the United Kingdom whose purpose
is to alleviate extreme poverty; although (as evidenced by the very name of the
department) the strategy of this organization is clearly to use development to solve the
problems which create extreme poverty, they differentiate themselves from the
development-as-trade-liberalization paradigm by explicitly stating their dedication to
addressing issues such as warfare/conflict, climate change, health care/ disease control,
and education (DFID 2008, RHVP 2005).
The DFID’s Southern African Regional Hunger & Vulnerability Programme
(RHVP) is an excellent example of this approach in Lesotho, recognizing the
interdependency of the regional economy of Southern Africa, and more importantly, the
explicit causal drivers of poverty as being failed development programs, badly executed
economic reform, poor governance, and the impact of diseases such as HIV, among
others. Recalling the food shortages that spread across the region in 2002-2003 as a result
of these problems, the RHVP has identified what it considers to be key constraints it
plans to address-alternatives to large-scale food aid as a response to predictable food
insecurity in the region, the lack of information available regarding regional food
insecurity which impedes appropriate solutions, and the inadequate application of this
knowledge both during and preceding food crises. It plans to accomplish this by
encouraging increased social protection programs in vulnerable states throughout the
region, increasing the efficacy and implementation of Vulnerability Assessment Analysis
(VAA) to compliment the social protection programs, and to investigate novel approaches
to resolve food insecurity in general. The RHVP self-consciously announces that it is
NOT a “blueprint” program, and clearly outlines that the approaches to be used will
encourage the governments of vulnerable states to eventually assume control of these
programs, and that they will adapt to changing conditions and learned experiences of
prior successes and failures. Perhaps most importantly, they will encourage the adoption
of such relatively new practices as direct cash transfers and other such alternatives to
large-scale food aid (RHVP 2005, Cliffe 2006).
Clearly, the criticisms levied by the likes of Ferguson and Matlosa have been
taken into consideration-quite obviously (and predictably) more seriously in some places
than in others-and it will be interesting to see what effect these considerations have on the
both the lives of the people-so often obscured by the endless flow of statistics, analyses,
and programs-and on the apparatus of development itself. It is heartening to realize that
we have arrived in an era where the recognition exists that a cure that kills-or nearly kills-
a patient is not much of a palliative, and that the long-term stability of economy (both
locally and globally) is inextricably connected to access to health, education and food;
however, the application of this knowledge is very far from institutionalized, and
furthermore, does not even begin to address what may become the issues that may soon
decide the fate of millions-or even billions. By virtue of the limitations of the laws of
physics themselves, a given supply of resources and space can only support so many lives
before a collapse becomes inevitable; at some point-if it has not already in fact begun-
regardless of the increases in market efficiency and capacity, we will be forced to make
very some very difficult decisions on what constitutes basic human rights, and perhaps
whether such conceptualizations of entitlements will even make sense in such
circumstances. One hopes that the discourses of poverty, development, and entitlements
does not descend-as it has so often in the past-into a Clausewitzian dialectic of armed
conflict; in the face of such a looming tragedy, it is essential to maintain the highest
degree of reflexivity possible, and at present, we could do far better.

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