Development Theory and its Threatening Other


Development's 'Other' is usually assumed to be the undeveloped world. The undeveloped world is portrayed as in some way deficient compared to the West. The need to remedy these deficiencies legitimises Western intervention in the world of the undeveloped Other. This understanding of development theory's history has informed the discipline's attempts to reinvent itself after the 'impasse' of the 1980s. However, this account of the developmental Self and Other is not the whole story. This self/other construction explains why doctrines of development can be thought in the first place, but it tells us little about what that thought looks like and how it can be distinguished from other ways of thinking. Another part of the story involves a Self constructed in opposition to a threatening Other – a dichotomy between the altruistic and just society envisaged by development and the selfish, materialistic, and Darwinian society that is presented as its only alternative. The part of threatening Other was played at the birth of the concept of development by the idea of progress, and since the impasse by neoliberalism. Initially, neoliberalism appeared as a new way of achieving development. But gradually it was argued that neoliberal development is not development at all: it is the opposite of development. It is portrayed as a doctrine that leaves people to their fate, playthings of forces they cannot control. This construction of a threatening Other allowed development theory to reassert its own identity as rational, communal, and people-focused social change.

Author Information
Adam Clark, Newcastle University, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: ECPEL2014
Stream: Politics - Political Theory

This paper is part of the ECPEL2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon