Escobar's Theoretical Analysis

1925 Words 8 Pages
Terms like “development”, the division between “developed” and “developing” countries and the desirability of industrial growth, are for the most part, taken for granted in mainstream and even some critical theories of development. However, these terms are not neutral descriptors, rather they are part of a larger regime of development discourse and are implicated in the maintenance of unequal global power relations. Building on the Foucauldian concept of discourse, anthropologists like Escobar and Ferguson have argued that development is a historically produced discourse. In the first part of this essay, I will outline Escobar’s arguments about how and why we should analyse development as discourse. In the second part of this essay, I will …show more content…
In the introduction to Encountering Development, Escobar quotes Harry Truman’s speech from 1949 where he outlines his famous “Truman Doctrine”: his concept of a “fair deal” for the whole world and his appeal for western countries to solve the problems of “underdeveloped” countries . Escobar explains how at this “specific historical conjuncture” at the end of the Second World War, a vision was created to industrialise the whole world and make every country “advanced” . Escobar builds on Foucault’s work on the relations between discourse and power and how certain regimes of discourse create the “conditions of possibility” for certain modes of thinking and being, and render others invisible or even impossible . Escobar argues that seeing development as a discourse enables us to understand both relations of domination and to explore the “conditions of possibility and the most pervasive effects of development’ . Escobar argues similarly to Said’s analysis of the Orient and Mohanty’s analysis of the colonialist subject, the production of development discourse under unequal power relations creates an image of the “Third World” which homogenises and universalises …show more content…
Anthropology has taken place in the colonial encounter but also in the encounter between developed and developing nations constructed by development discourse . Ferguson has called “development” anthropology’s “Evil Twin”, suggesting that anthropology has a close and even constitutive relationship with development . He argues that development institutions framed the “problems” of “developing countries” in the terms of 19th century anthropology . Countries were depicted as part of an evolutionary development scheme— with nations moving along from “backwardness” towards “modernity” . Furthermore, he argues that although early 20th anthropologists rejected social evolutionism, evolutionary discourse was not disposed of. Malinowski, for example kept the binary distinction between “modern” and “primitive” societies and the latter was still considered the primary object for anthropological analysis . Even critical theories of development in the latter half of the twentieth century (Dependency Theory, World Systems Theory etc.) which condemned western institutions and governments for their deliberate “underdevelopment” of the “Third World”, stayed within the framework which they criticised—accepting implicitly the desirability of development and the divisions between the

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