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The discourses of development. Mechanism of power and control?

Essay 2018 10 Seiten

Politik - Internationale Politik - Thema: Entwicklungspolitik


Table of Contents


Development theories that have not contributed to international development

Other concepts about development

Benefits and drawbacks of modern development




Nowadays the discourses of international development are very popular. Every day, a lot of college students learn about many development theories and thousands of people are working in development organisations worldwide. Likewise, there are plenty of NGOs seeking the development of the third world(Nhu Phuong, 2015). However, despite all the existing development discourses and although hundreds of institutions work for the development of the third world, it has not been possible to free vulnerable people from poverty, hunger, unemployment and social inequality. In fact, Escobar (1997), suggests that discourses of development serve as a mechanism of intervention and domination of the third world. Thus, this essay responds to the next question: are the discourses of development a mechanism of power and control used by the first world to keep their domination over the third world? To approach that question, the essay describes three important aspects of development: development theories that have not contributed to the international development, other concepts about development and benefits and drawbacks of modern development. Finally, a summary of this essay is presented.

Development theories that have not contributed to international development

According to Peet and Hartwick (2015), there are different theories of development. In Fact, some of these theories are identified as conventional theories, but all the theories of development are related to conventional economics(Peet & Hartwick, 2015). For this reason, Lucitania (2013) states that economy contributes to the development of a country. For instance, many presidential candidates of Latin America in electoral epochs propose to work for the economic growth of their countries if they are elected as presidents, because according to them in this way their countries could become developed countries (García, 2018; Benson & Trejos, 2018; Clarin, 2018). In this way, it is theorized that simple economic growth of a nation means development of it(Peet & Hartwick, 2015). However, the economist Abarca (2015) states that "there is no direct relationship between growth and economic development, much less between economic growth and human development. The great challenge of the world society is to create an effective link between economic growth, economic development and human development" (para.1).

Therefore, the fact that a country has economic growth does not mean that it has economic development (Abarca, 2015). In addition, many people who live in economically developed countries are very poor (Shambaugh, 2017; UNICEF, n.d). Under those circumstances, this economic development does not necessarily mean the end of poverty for all the citizens of these countries (Shambaugh, 2017; UNICEF, n.d). Therefore, Peet and Hartwick (2015) affirm "conventional theories often accept the accumulation of wealth by a few as spurring the entrepreneurship and innovation they see motivating the development effort- social inequality, for them, is the inevitable price of progress" (p. 23). We can argue then that the theories of economic growth have not been able to eradicate the extreme poverty in which many people live worldwide, especially in the third world. In addition, economic growth has not produced a better life for these vulnerable people.

Likewise, Marxism and Socialism have been seen as a political system to promote development among the less favoured classes(Peet & Hartwick, 2015). To explain, the socialist and Marxist theories argue that the capitalist system is unjust because it only seeks the benefit of increasing wealthy while the working classes are oppressed and impoverished (Marx & Engels, 1848). In this way, the Marxist and socialist ideologies promote full control over private companies through the expropriation of these and consequently obtaining total authority over the economy of the country(Peet & Hartwick, 2015). With the methods already described, the Marxist and socialist theories promote social and economic equality of people, arguing that in this way human and economic development of the state is promoted(Marx & Engels, 1848). However, the economic and social deterioration faced by some countries that practice these Marxist and socialist doctrines could indicate that these ideologies have not contributed to the true development of these countries (Cocuyo, 2016).

For example, Venezuela is one of the countries with the largest oil reserves in the world, although today it is the poorest country in Latin America (Benítez, 2018). But it was not always like that; 20 years ago, oil made Venezuela a very prosperous country, but poverty and misery came to Venezuela since President Hugo Chavez implemented socialist regime in the country(Benítez, 2018). As a result, today thousands of Venezuelans flee their country avoiding to die of hunger since the current President Nicolás Maduro has impoverished the country even more (Benítez, 2018). It could be argued then that the theories of economic growth, of Marxism and socialism among others, have not contributed to true international development. Nevertheless, many theories that have not achieved their development objective have inspired new ways of promoting development as explained below.

Other concepts about development

According to Friedmann (1992), the alternative development approach is a concept that has emerged from the need for implementing new development projects and ideas that lead to the empowerment of marginal people. In this way, alternative development seeks inclusion and participation of local communities in projects that could affect their quality of life and social wellbeing. To illustrate, in a development project where an indigenous community will be affected, it would be very important that this community take an active part in the project, contributing with their opinions and knowledge which results in the successful implementation of the development project (Briggs, 2014). This strategy would be a form of alternative development, that aims to improve and create new ways and thinking about doing development. For this reason, Briggs (2014) affirms that "indigenous knowledge has become increasingly important in discussions on sustainable development because of the ways in which such knowledge has apparently allowed people to live in harmony with nature while still being able to make a living" (p. 128).

Some of the promoters of alternative development have proposed new ways of doing development. Among some of these grassroots thinkers stand out Paulo Freire, Manfred Max-Neef and Fritz Schumacher. For example, Freire (1970) argues that education is a method by which people can discover new ways of transforming their world. This is possible thanks to the fact that education frees people from ignorance, and this also allows them to know and understand the reality of life, which provides people with the skills to be critical, creative and able to provide solutions to problematics of society.

It could be interpreted than that Freire (1970), presents education as a method that contributes to the development of countries. In regard to Manfred Max-Neef, Simon (2006) states that:

Max-Neef has made a noticeable contribution to development thinking and practices through his pioneering critique of development economics, his early advocacy of grassroots participation and empowerment, and his redefinition of human needs. His arguments for development alternatives and community participation remain relevant, perhaps even more so as civil society, participation and poverty reduction have become the contemporary buzzwords of the mainstream, top-down development models. (p. 175)



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Massey University, New Zealand




Titel: The discourses of development. Mechanism of power and control?