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Third World Quarterly

Post-Development Theory and the Question of Alternatives: A View from Africa Author(s): Sally Matthews Source: Third World Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 2 (2004), pp. 373-384 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3993687 . Accessed: 18/05/2011 09:25
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a lighthouse which supposedly inspired nations. This group of theoristsfeels that the concept of development is obsolete or bankruptand that the practiceof developmenthas done more harm than good. SouthAfrica. No. without sufficient considerationof what should be put in its place. what is meant by post-developmenttheory's call for 'alternatives to development'? Second.ac. what contributions can a consideration of African difference and diversity make towards debate on 'alternatives to development'? I conclude by arguing that increased considerationof the African experience would be valuablefor all who are seeking alternative ways of dealing with the problems that development purports to address. Whatdo they mean by such calls and what should be the African response to such calls? In this paper I will attemptto address three importantquestions:first. Sachs (1992: 1) declares developmentto be 'a ruin in the intellectuallandscape'.malfunctioninglighthouse is better than having no guiding light at all! While post-developmentliteraturecalls for 'alternativesto development'.with the alternativesbeing only mentioned or Sally Matthews is in the Departmentof Political Sciences. pp. why consider post-development theory from an African perspective? Third. Sachs' metaphorof a crumbling lighthouse could be used by critics of post-developmenttheory to argue that even a crumbling. 373-384. what distinguishes the post-developmentperspective from other critical perspectives is that post-development theorypronouncesthe demise of developmentand urges for 'alternatives to development' ratherthan alternativedevelopment. 2004 Publishing Carfax theory Post-development question Africa SALLY MATTHEWS and a view the from of alternatives: Post-developmenttheorists have declared developmentobsolete and ABSTRACT bankruptand have called for 'alternativesto development'. While there are many development theorists who are disillusioned with and critical of development theory and practice. Statementssuch as these reflect the disillusionment with developmentfelt by several scholars collectively referredto as 'post-development theorists'. but which now 'shows cracks and is startingto crumble'. a discussion of these alternativeshas not featuredprominentlyin much post-developmentliterature.Third World Quarterly. Universityof Pretoria. and sets out to tear down this ruin. Email: smatthews@postino. Vol.1080/0143659042000174860 373 .up.This rejection of the whole paradigmof development opens post-developmenttheory up to accusations that it provides destructiveratherthan constructivecriticism. 25. Pretoria 0002.za. 2.that it declares development to be a ruin beyond repair. TISN 0143-6597 print/ITN 1360-2241 online/04/0200373-12 ? 2004 Third World Quarterly DOI: 10.

post-developmenttheory's weakness in terms of the absence of a comprehensivedescriptionof 'alternativesto development'. The paper will attemptto provide some discussion on the issue of 'alternatives to development' and to make a few comments on post-developmenttheory from the perspective of the African continent. post-developmenttheory can be distinguishedfrom other critical approachesto development (such as dependency theory. In doing the above. Nederveen Pieterse (2000: 188) says that the idea of 'alternativesto development'is 'a misnomerbecause no such alternativesare offered'. is no reason to reject the theory as a whole. as well as for more attentionto be given to Africa by those writing from a post-developmentperspective. This rejection appearsto emerge from a feeling that the negative consequenceswhich have been observedto result from development are intrinsic to development. and the diversity of world-views and lifestyles in Africa could provide useful insights for those concerned with describing such alternatives. 374 . three important questions will be dealt with: first. While it seems that the critique of development offered by post-developmenttheory is exceptionally relevant to Africa. what contributionscan a consideration of post-developmenttheory from an African perspectivemake towardsthe question of 'alternativesto development'? Alternatives to what? As pointed out by Nederveen Pieterse (2000: 176). As Nustad (2001) has recently pointed out. there has been little attemptto relate the post-development perspective to the continent. I will aim to show that post-development theory is relevant to Africa and to argue for more attention to be given to post-developmenttheory by African scholars. and time and thoughtought to be devoted to determiningwhat post-development theorists mean when they call for 'the abandonmentof the whole epistemological and political field of postwar development' (Escobar 1991: 675). 'alternativedevelopment'theory and 'humandevelopment') by its insistence that developmentbe rejected entirely. ratherthan better implemented or alteredin specific ways. the question of alternativesis an importantone. This question of alternativesis one of the issues which motivated the writing of this paper. Another motivation for the writing of the paper stems from the observation that post-developmenttheory has had little to say about Africa. why consider post-development theory from an African perspective? Third.I believe that a consideration of Africa by those adopting a post-developmentperspective could be valuable for the articulationof alternatives to development.3 Post-development theory's weaknesses should not be allowed to cause its insightful and radical critique of development to go unheard.SALLY MATTHEWS briefly described. and that African scholars have had little to say about post-developmenttheory.However. what is meant by post-developmenttheory's call for 'alternativesto development'? Second.2As a result. The way in which African world-views and lifestyles differ from those of Western and Westernised regions. as well as to discussions of what 'alternativesto development' may involve. ratherthan being unintentionalside-effects of it. Furthermore.

develPost-developmenttheorists clearly reject attemptsto reform the PWWII opment project in order to eliminate its negative effects. The PWWII development project encompasses them all-the term is meant to refer to the various ideas and practiceswhich have been premisedupon the belief that some areas of the world are 'developed'.is not. but the idea that it is possible for a which will result in society to undergo some or other process of transformation.In orderto make this distinction clear. use the term 'the developmentproject) to refer to post-WorldWar II developmentproject' (PwwII the theories and practices which have since the 1950s been associated with the term 'development'. and others not. but that the assumptions and ideas that are core to development are problematic. for the rest of the paper. from the perspective of post-development theorists.AN AFRICAN VIEW OF POST-DEVELOPMENT THEORY Thus the problem. and several of the theories about development are set up in opposition to other theories of development. I shall use 'development' without qualificationto refer to the concept of development used in a broaderway and applicable to a number of contexts. but rather because it is 'the wrong answer to [its target populations'] needs and aspirations'. Thus. The post-World War II era has seen development theories rooted in capitalist ideology. there have been approachespromotingstate-led developmentand others promoting market-led development. I will.4Post-development theorists ridicule such attempts. They pour scorn upon projects such as 'sustainable development'. It should be acknowledgedhere that the ideas. institutions and people implemented it poorly. is not that the project of developmentwas poorly implementedand that it is necessary to find a better way to bring it about.Development is thus to be rejected rather than reformed. there have been the ideas of mainstream economists (sometimes housed in the World Bank and InternationalMonetary Fund) and there have been the ideas of those who responded critically to them. But what can it mean to 'reject development'? What is (and what is not) being rejected? In answeringthis question I think it is importantto point out that post-development theorists appear to use the word 'development' to refer to the theories and practices which have most commonly been associated with the term 'development' in the post-World War II era. Consider Rahnema (1997: 379) who says that development did not fail because governments. and so improved implementationis not the answer. This whole body of knowledge (with all its various strains) is rejected by post-developmenttheorists. theories and practices that have been associated with the term 'development' since the 1950s are diverse. a particular form of developmentis being referredto in post-developmentliterature. which aim to maintain the core assumptions which have informed the PWWII development project but to make some changes in an attempt to eliminate or reduce the negative consequences which this form of development has apparentlybrought about. and that those which are not can and should set about achieving the 'development' which has thus far eluded them. Latouche (1993: 149-186) calls them 'siren songs' and says that so-called 'alternative'development is more insidious than 'hard' development because its friendly exterior is more seductive than 375 . a better life for its inhabitants. and others rooted in Marxist ideology.

more often than not. it could be said to be a process involving the unfolding of changes in the direction of reaching a higher or more mature state of being. Post-developmenttheorists do not believe that talk of 'sustainabledevelopment'. a call for 'alternativesto development' (perhapsmore correctlywrittenas 'alternativesto the PWWII developmentproject' in the context of this paper) is a 376 . shows that such theorists certainly do not view positive social change as impossible or undesirable. 1993: 13).the project of improving people's lives (which can more correctly carry the name 'development') must not be abandoned. while the Pwwii development project may be obsolete and bankrupt.It could. indeed. Surely post-development theorists cannot mean to reject the desirabilityof positive change when they call for an 'end to development'. do not come from the 'ThirdWorld') to be more desirable than the current situation. according to their own culturally defined ethics and aspirations. The call for an 'end to development' should not. and a caterpillarinto a butterfly. and other grassroots organisations aiming to bring about change in their communities. that could leave them free to change the rules and the contents of change. It is here that the distinction made earlierbetween 'the Pwwii developmentproject' and 'development' becomes important. Stripped of the connotations that have attached themselves to the concept over the past few decades. Yet what they seek is of a quite differentnature. nor as a call for a returnto earlier ways of life. emphasis in the original) say: The contributors[to The Post-DevelopmentReader] generally agree that the people whose lives have often been traumatized developmentchanges do not refuse to by accept change. but its content much the same. Post-developmenttheorists' enthusiasm regarding the so-called New Social Movements.Post-developmenttheorists reject the Pwwii development project. the concept 'development' is close in meaning to improvement. be interpretedas a belief that the bettering of social organisationis impossible. While some post-developmenttheorists have not made this distinction clear. insisting that what is needed is to 'dethrone'development and 'leave it behind in pursuit of radically alternativevisions of social life' (O'Connor & Arnoux.SALLY MA1THEWS 'hard' development. This is made abundantly clear in the conclusion of The Post-Development Reader. be said that they feel that the PwwII developmentprojecthas not broughtabout development!Thus the call for an 'end to development' and 'alternativesto development' is a rejection of the post-World War II attemptsto engineer particularchanges in the so-called 'Third World' in order to bring about a situation deemed by various development theorists (who. Thus.ratherthan development. where Rahnema& Bawtree (1997: 385. to desirable change. a child into an adult. allowing for ambiguityregardingwhat is meant by their calls for 'alternativesto development'. others have clearly pointed out that.They want change that would enable them to blossom 'like a flower from the bud' (a good definition in Webster's dictionary for what development should be!). Thus a bud develops into a flower. however. a 'basic needs' approach or other 'improvements'of the PwwnI developmentproject are a cause for hope. to amelioration. But what precisely do those calling for the abandonment the PwwII of development project mean? If development is defined most simply.

are highly evident in Africa. Escobar. there is perhaps only a handful of African scholars who have published work on development from anything similar to a post-development perspective. ultimately. The recent declarationand publicisationof the New Partnership has for Africa's Development (NEPAD) once again emphasised development as a priorityfor Africa. Kothari. The environmental destructionwhich the PWWII development project appearsto bring about is one such cause. Why consider post-development theory from an African perspective? A numberof post-developmenttheorists come from the so-called 'ThirdWorld' (consider Alvares. it always results in increased cultural homogenisation and. furthermore. nor as callous disregard of the desire of the many who suffer in poverty and misery to see improvementin their situation. Rahnema and others). economic growth. to be constructed in the place of the ruin of the PwwII development project. and yet it remains impoverished. but these promises have not come about. However. they are bound together by their disillusionmentwith the PwwiI developmentprojectand there are several reasons that are frequently cited as cause for this disillusionment.' Generally speaking. While post-development theorists are a disparate bunch. despite the obvious interest in development shown by African politicians and scholars. as the question of developmentin Africa featuresprominentlyin academic work about the continent. The call for alternatives must not be read as a call for the rejection of the possibility or desirability of change in the direction of improving societies. rapid increases in standardsof living and the like. with scholars writing about Africa frequently assuming development to be an urgent priority. and the gap between the standardof living of Africans and those in the 377 .AN AFRICAN VIEW OF POST-DEVELOPMENT THEORY call for a new way of changing. Africa's leaders also make frequent reference to the need for development. One could be led to suppose that the findings of post-development theoristsare less relevantto Africa than they are to the rest of the 'ThirdWorld'. Another is the many broken promises made by the advocates of the PwwII developmentproject-they promisedpoverty reduction. the African situationhas not featuredprominentlyin discussions by such theorists. discussions and literature focusing on the question of development in Africa have not taken into account the post-developmentperspective. of improving.increased income equity. or to accept a controversialpolicy because this policy is said to be necessary if development is to take place. Westernisation. This is strangeas it seems that many of the factors that led to the disillusionment of post-developmenttheoristsare prominentin Africa. Other post-development theorists are disillusionedbecause they feel that no matterhow the Pwwii developmentproject is packaged. often urging their people to endure hardship because it will ultimately bring about development. especially the many broken promises. The absence of discussions related to the post-development perspective is evidently not a result of a lack of interestin the topic of development in Africa. of developing. The causes for disillusionment. but none of the prominent thinkers linked with this school of thought is African and. Africa has been subjected to development initiative after development initiative.

Thus. 12 are African. Corbridge(1998: 145) slams post-developmenttheory for failing to acknowledge 'the extraordinary accomplishmentsthat have defined the Age of Development'. while many excellent critiquesof NEPAD been written. This is not. Statisticslike those offered by the UNDP and Amin can only give a very limited picture of how the PWWIi development project has affected Africa. thus Africa.SALLY MATTHEWS 'developed' world is ever-widening. it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that it has failed abysmally. Despite its many failings. environmental destruction and general disillusionment. The United Nations Development Programme (2001: 10) lists several countries which have experienced 'setbacks in human development' (ie the standardof living. has only become more impoverished (uNDP. To promise to deliver a starvingman a meal and then only to deliver a few crumbs is to fail to keep a promise. of course. the PwwII development project is still thriving in Africa. Of the 20 countries mentioned. with the latest continent-wide development project. has been falling).inequalityand deprivation.6 have critics 378 . And one cannot help but be surprisedthat the insights of post-developmenttheory have not been extensively related to Africa. increased inequities. but will rather simply repeat that post-developmenttheory is relevant to Africa. as measured by the Human Development Index. but no matter how one chooses to evaluate the performance of the PwwII development project in Africa. but this does not invalidate the claim that this project has failed. The PWwii developmentproject has not broughtabout the kind of life its various advocates claimed it would bring about. when readingthe angry words of post-developmenttheoristscomplaining that the PwwII developmentproject has only brought about disappointment. because it recognises the failure of the Pwwui developmentproject which is illustratedby the African experience.limited success must be recognised ultimatelyas failure. I will not here speculate as to why this is the case.2001: 10). even if several initiatives associated with it have been partially successful. When dealing with issues as urgentand desperateas poverty. NEPAD. Defenders of the PwwII development project point out that promised improvementsin literacy rates have materialised. Amin (1990: 6-7) lists a numberof economic and social indicatorswhich demonstrate that 'Africa's developmenthas broken down'. This may be true. to say that every initiative associated with the Pwwii development project has failed.and that several other indicatorsof standardsof living representsuccesses. cultural homogenisation.that infant mortalityhas decreased. The UNDP also notes that the GDP growth rate of sub-SaharanAfrica between 1975 and 1999 was . The failure of the Pwwii development project is at least as apparentin Africa as it is in the rest of the 'Third World'. and post-developmenttheory may rightly be criticised for failing to acknowledge where the PwwII development project has broughtabout some of the changes it promised or had some kind of beneficial influence. After countless different interventionspremised upon different theories. which was already impoverished in 1975. receiving much attentionthere and in the rest of the world. one cannot help but feel that the African situation confirms and underlines these theorists' findings. poverty and inequality continue to plague Africa. nor extensively discussed by African academics. NEPAD is a project rooted in the kind of development thinking so despised by post-development theoristsand.1%.

world-views and lifestyles of its people (from now on referredto as Africa's difference).THEORY VIEWOF POST-DEVELOPMENT AN AFRICAN and of NEPAD similarprojectscould enrich their critiquesif they were to consider the following insights offered by post-developmenttheory: * The Pwwii development project has failed not only because it was frequently badly implemented. * A dismissal of the Pwwii development project must not mean an end to attempts to solve the problems it purportedto be able to address (such as poverty. Africa remains markedly different from the West.A recent publication.2000). focuses specifically on African culture and how African culturalvalues have affected the way in which the PwwII development project has occurredin Africa. Etounga-Manguellerecognises the failure of the PwwII development project in Africa and blames this failure on the persistence of what he calls 'African culture'. discusses the relationship between culture and development.entitled CultureMatters:How Values Shape Human Progress (Harrison& Huntington.Africans' worldviews and value systems remain noticeably different from those of Westerners. authored by Daniel Etounga-Manguelle (2000).7 CulturallyAfricansremainclearly distinct and African lifestyles are significantly different from the lifestyles embraced by those in the West. One chapter. but also because it was misconceived. still converse in indigenous languages (although Western languages are used in business and government). if the PwwII development project is to succeed in Africa.many Africans still live in African-style homes and eat almost exclusively African-style foods.African diversity and the question of alternatives The first section of this paper clarified what post-developmenttheory means by 'alternativesto development' and the second section has illustratedthe relevance of post-developmenttheory to the African context. Most importantly. deprivationand inequity).I will argue that the way in which Africa is different from the West and Westernised world in terms of the values. Africans. for the most part. I hope now to draw these two sections togetherby looking at how a considerationof the African experience of the PwwII development project can be valuable to those trying to articulate alternativesto this project. there are many aspects of African life which are relatively untouched by such influences.' He argues that. * One of the reasons why the PwwI development project can be considered to be misconceived is because it is based on the universalisation of Western experience. as well as the way in which Africa is home to diverse people groups who experience the world in diverse ways (from now on referred to as Africa's diversity) can provide some pointers for those who are trying to conceive alternatives. This cultural difference has been considered relevant for the success or failure of the PwwII developmentproject. and does not take into account the diversity of experiences. Africans need to undergo a 'culturaladjustment values and to inculcate the programme'in orderto get rid of 'progress-resistant' 379 . While Western influences are certainly evident in Africa.but ratheras the pursuitof alternativeways to address these problems. needs and aspirationsof those it claims to assist. African difference.

If Africa does not have the values needed for this form of development to succeed. he ignores the obvious alternative: perhaps the values ought to remain and the PwwII development project should values may be cause for dismay go.SALLY MAITHEWS 'right' values in Africans. It is not only possible to theorise that Africa's difference and diversity can 380 . can hope that these 'progress-resistant' values may be of assistance in the articulationof alternatives. then those who believe that Africa would be better off if it did not succeed. deprivationand inequity. Africa can be said to be home to a numberof different ways of understandingand being. The persistenceof these 'progress-resistant' among those committedto the PwwII developmentproject.This is not to imply that African ways of life are necessarily superior to other ways (nor necessarily inferior).9While I find the suggestion that African values are 'wrong' and that Africans need to adopt values more common in Western societies in order to 'succeed' ridiculous and abhorrent.While certain values appearto be more common in African culturesthan in other cultures. but it is surely cause for celebration among those who have declared the PwwII development project obsolete and bankrupt.Africa too has many religions (and many of its own manifestationsof world religions like Islam and Christianity)and many civilisations. Those who recognise the poverty of the way of understanding being that underpinsthe PwwII developmentproject." Etounga-Manguelleconcludes that certain African values are incompatiblewith the PwwII developmentproject and therefore that these values must go. will find and this diversity encouragingas it opens up the possibility of building a different set of values and principles upon which a different understandingof development can be constructed. a project which has its roots in particularassumptionsand values cannot succeed in the absence of the relevant assumptionsand values.Thus Africa's difference may provide some key pointers towards a different set of goals and practices aimed at better addressingproblems such as poverty.'0 Thus it is not entirely false to say that African values have been obstacles to the success of the PwWIdevelopment project (although this is only one of the many factors that can be said to have contributedto the failure of this project in Africa).there is considerablediversity among the cultures of Africa. and Africa too should thus be considereda valuable source of ideas for those who are committed to finding alternatives.Kothari(1990: 49-50) argues something similar with regardto Asia and the Middle East. I think EtoungaManguelle makes one importantpoint: a project premised upon a set of values cannot succeed in the absence of those values. various African communitiesare different from one another.nor to say that Africa ought to be the unique or primarysource of the values and world-views informing the articulationof alternatives. In additionto being differentfrom the West.but ratherto make a much more basic point: in Africa's diversity there is a rich variety of and being and this variety can provide seeds for thought ways of understanding for all those (both African and non-African) who question the PwwII development project and who would like to find a differentway to addressthe problems it purportsto be addressing. pointing out that the variety of religions and civilisations present in India and the Islamic world can be a rich source of ideas for those looking for alternatives. However. Just as a car cannot drive on a river and a boat cannot float down a road.

1994)-one of the few books with an African focus that appears to be rooted in a perspective compatible with post-developmenttheory-discusses the experiences of several communities in Senegal. some Senegalese communities assume something quite different: they assume that to give confers respectabilityon a person. However. and shows how these communitiesreject the PWWII developmentproject ratherthan simply failing to achieve this project's objectives. The book Re'anventerle pre'sent(N'Dione. The Camerooniantheologian-sociologist Jean-MarcEla (1998: 3) makes this clear when he says: of of It Africais not againstdevelopment.. 1997: 371). In this chapter it is pointed out that several of the assumptions which are core to the PVWII development project are far from universal. 1994). but are blind to the possibility that some of these communities may have rejected the kind of development such theorists propose and may be actively trying to meet their needs and fulfil their aspirationsin a different way. but it illustratesthe importantpoint that the values that the PWWII development project assumes to be universal are not. Conventional development theorists presume that Person A will give what she has in excess to Person B with the expectation that Person B will in turn give what he has in excess in proportionto the value of what he received from Person A. The Post-Development Reader includes a chapter based on this book (N'Dione et al.AN AFRICAN VIEW OF POST-DEVELOPMENT THEORY provide hope that alternativesto the PWWII development project can be articulated in Africa. but it is also possible to observe ways in which Africa's difference and diversity is already leading to the articulation of alternatives. some African communities conceive of different ways of addressingproblems of poverty and inequity by drawing on African cultural values and perspectives. who has in excess. Development projects cannot succeed unless the values which inform them are shared by the community in which they are implemented. Theorists loyal to the Pwwii development project lament the way in which African communities have failed to achieve 'development'. These communities reject the PWWII development project because their values are different from those that they perceive to inform this kind of development and because their values are precious to them (N'Dione.Africa sees further so dearto Africans. because the act of giving (ratherthan having) confers prestige (N'Dione et al. 1997). This is one small example.One example given relates to different assumptions with regard to the exchange of goods. will give without any expectationof a measurableand equivalentreturn. 381 . and that Person A. and that their lack of universality results in the rejectionof the PwWIIdevelopmentprojectby communities who do not share these supposedly universal assumptions. dreams otherthingsthanthe expansion values the that a cultureof deathor an alienating modernity destroys fundamental worldof material thanan all-embracing . Thus it is not that Africans reject developmentin its broadest sense-in other words positive social change that leads to a better life for the inhabitantsof the society undergoingthe change-but ratherthat some Africans reject a particular development manifestation of development (the one I have labelled the PWWII project here) because it is incongruent with the values they hold dear. Instead of embracing the goals and practicesof the PWWII developmentproject.

but new guiding ideas.SALLYMATTHEWS of thingsandthe dictatorship the hereandnow. and have suggested that these failings are the result of deep flaws in the ideas which inform this project of development. that meaning. Post-development theorists have pointed out the failings of the PwwII development project. This can be seen in Sachs' (1992) The DevelopmentDictionary:A Guide to Knowledge as Power. Illich 2 (1979. 382 . they assert. inequities persist and grow more stark. Ferguson(1990). only aspirations. and Seabrook (1993). for the most part. Rahnema (1992. thatinsistson tryingto persuade us thatthe only validmottois 'I sell. 1997) Sachs (1992). If this situationchanges. 1997).This is not to say that it is Africa alone that is home to the values and world-views that will allow for constructionof alternatives. the poor remain poor. 1991.Escobar's (1995) EncounteringDevelopment:The Making and Unmaking of the Third World only tackles the question of alternatives in the final chapter. the PwwII development project ought to be abandonedaltogether. therefore am'. Escobar(1984. I have suggested that a consideration of the African experience is valuable for those who are keen to articulatealternatives. and cemented together by careful consideration and debate between all who are committed to constructinga new lighthouse to replace the collapsing ruin of the Pwwii development project. These building bricks can be joined by building bricks from other parts of the world. must be recognised. the values and attitudeswhich have contributedto the failure of the PwwiI developmentproject in Africa could become building bricks for those keen to conceive of new ways of addressing the problems which the PwwII development project has failed adequately to address. to alleviate suffering and to structureour societies so as to eliminate poverty and inequity? What are the alternativesto the PwwII developmentproject?If what we need is not new processes and practices. Notes I Among such scholars are Alvares (1992). 1995). Latouche (1993). These conclusions lead to a question-if we abandonthe PwwII development project. 1992. ratherthanjust superficialproblems regardingthe way in which the project has been implemented. After half a century of theories and practices claiming to bring about development. 1995). and aspirationsto a better future remain. Kothari (1990. In a worldoftendevoidof I Africais a reminder thereare otherways of being. 1997). Thus far. 1988. African academics have not paid much attention to the arguments of post-developmenttheorists. in Africa and the rest of the so-called 'developing' world. Rist (1990.it is to say that Africa too (in addition to other regions) can be a truly valuable source of insights for those committed to considering alternativesto the PwwIu development project. what is it that is to guide our attemptsto better our lives. which is almost exclusively a critiqueof development.Rather. and Latouche (1993) only begins to explore the question of alternativesin the penultimatechapterof his book In the Wake of Affluent Society: An Exploration of Post-development. and post-developmenttheorists have paid relatively little attentionto the African experience. where will we find these ideas? In this paper. Commentsand conclusions The failure of the Pwwii development project. In the light of these flaws.

A (1988) Power and visibility: the invention and managementof development in the Third world. 4 (4).A (1995) The Making and Unmakingof the Third World(Princeton. S (1998) 'Beneath the pavement only soil': the poverty of post-development. Ngwane (2002). G (1995) The spiral of the ram's horn: Boran concepts of development. 10 I would like to emphasise here that I am not saying that a project with roots in certain assumptionsand values can only succeed in the culture in which the project originates. P (2002) Fanon's Warning:A Civil Society Reader on the New Partnershipfor Africa's Development (Cape Town: Alternative Information and Development Centre). The Post-Development Reader.D (2000). A (1984) Discourse and power in development: Michel Foucault and the relevance of his work to the Third World. l Writers like Etounga-Manguelle can be criticised for ignoring the influence of colonialism (which Etounga-Mangeullesays cannot 'reasonablybe blamed' for Africa's condition). but I would like to argue that certain key values and assumptionsare common to all cultures in which the Pwwii developmentprojectsucceeded. Amin. available from the Alternative Informationand Development Centre. Civil Society Indaba (2002). 9 See Harrison (2001) for a summary of Etounga-Manguelle's argument. despite several limitations. industrialisation. Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress (New York: Basic Books). South African Catholic Bishops Conference (2002) and Vale (2002).It should be acknowledged here that there are other ways of interpretingsustainabledevelopment. attitudes. Corbridge. but will work from the assumption that it is a set of valuable and useful ideas. I am not here trying to suggest that there are several inherent differences between Africans and Westerners-that the two groups of people are and always will be essentially different. SP (2000) Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress (New York: Basic Books). and there are significant differences between the world-views and value systems that are commonplace in contemporaryAfrica and those in contemporaryEurope and North America. Harrison.org. pp 411-436. C (1992) Science. Futures. there is most often an attempt to maintain a commitment to economic growth. Ferguson. Cultural Anthropology. LE & Huntington. This is not to deny the diversity in both regions.but ratherthat it can only succeed in a culturewhich has the relevant assumptionsand values (althoughthe two culturesmay differ in several significantways). Dahl. Alternatives. and institutions' that binds it together. J (1998) Western development has failed: looking to a new Africa. in: M Rahnema & V Bawntree (eds). 383 . Le Monde Diplomatique. I would like to make a much more simple point: Africans living today live in ways that are differentto Westerners living today.AN AFRICAN VIEW OF POST-DEVELOPMENT THEORY Like Nustad (2001). Escobar.American Ethnologist. Depoliticisation and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press). Nabudere (2002).za.in: SP Huntington & LE Harrison (eds). Bond. pp 138-148. 10. nor to suggest that the two are permanentlyand essentially different. http://www. but that the dominant understandingof sustainable development is the one described. Does Africa need a cultural adjustmentprogramme?. Escobar. Consider here Ela (1998). the exploitation of Africa. while simultaneouslypreventingenvironmentaldestruction. pp 51-64 (Cape Town: David Philip). Longwe (2002). and the inequities of the global economic system which. Developmentand Violence: The Twilight of Modernity(Delhi: Oxford University Press). 6 6 Consider for example Bond (2002). Dahl & Megerssa (1995) and N'Dione et al (1995). pp 377-400. Rather. pp 428-443. pp 659-682. A (1992) Reflections on 'development': grassroots approachesand alternativepolitics in the Third World. A (1991) Anthropology and the development encounter:the making and marketingof development anthropology. Escobar. 4 In the case of sustainable development. Pheko (2002). 35 (1). October. J (1990) The Anti-politics Machine: 'Development'. 3 References Alvares. 24 (5).even while the cultureswere also differentin certainways. and that it is these values. along with several other complex factors. In the interests of space I will not provide a detailed discussion of post-development theory.aidc. I believe post-development theory's critique of development to be useful. Civil Society Indaba (2002) Resolution on NEPAD. Thus. S (1990) Maldevelopment:anatomy of a global failure (Tokyo: United Nations University Press). Etounga-Manguelle. Escobar. Etounga-Maguellebelieves that Africa has a 'foundationof shared values.NJ: PrincetonUniversity Press). must also be considered when determining why the PwwII development project failed in Africa. attitudes and institutions which are to be blamed for the failure of 'development' in Africa. Cape Town. regardless of its limitations. Escobar. 18 (4).modernisation and other key aspects of pwwii development. Ela. G & Megerssa. Journal of Development Studies. the Pwwii developmentproject could be said to have succeeded in various cultural settings.

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