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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: . Accessed: 18/05/2011 09:25
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Third World Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 2, pp. 373-384, 2004

Publishing Carfax

theory Post-development question


a view




Post-developmenttheorists have declared developmentobsolete and ABSTRACT bankruptand have called for 'alternativesto development'. 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, what is meant by post-developmenttheory's call for 'alternatives to development'? Second, why consider post-development theory from an African perspective? Third, 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. Sachs (1992: 1) declares developmentto be 'a ruin in the intellectuallandscape'; a lighthouse which supposedly inspired nations, but which now 'shows cracks and is startingto crumble'. Statementssuch as these reflect the disillusionment with developmentfelt by several scholars collectively referredto as 'post-development theorists'. This group of theoristsfeels that the concept of development is obsolete or bankruptand that the practiceof developmenthas done more harm than good. While there are many development theorists who are disillusioned with and critical of development theory and practice, what distinguishes the post-developmentperspective from other critical perspectives is that post-development theorypronouncesthe demise of developmentand urges for 'alternatives to development' ratherthan alternativedevelopment.This rejection of the whole paradigmof development opens post-developmenttheory up to accusations that it provides destructiveratherthan constructivecriticism;that it declares development to be a ruin beyond repair, and sets out to tear down this ruin, without sufficient considerationof what should be put in its place. Sachs' metaphorof a crumbling lighthouse could be used by critics of post-developmenttheory to argue that even a crumbling,malfunctioninglighthouse is better than having no guiding light at all! While post-developmentliteraturecalls for 'alternativesto development', a discussion of these alternativeshas not featuredprominentlyin much post-developmentliterature,with the alternativesbeing only mentioned or
Sally Matthews is in the Departmentof Political Sciences, Universityof Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, SouthAfrica. Email: TISN 0143-6597 print/ITN 1360-2241 online/04/0200373-12 ? 2004 Third World Quarterly DOI: 10.1080/0143659042000174860



briefly described.2As a result, Nederveen Pieterse (2000: 188) says that the idea of 'alternativesto development'is 'a misnomerbecause no such alternativesare offered'. As Nustad (2001) has recently pointed out, post-developmenttheory's weakness in terms of the absence of a comprehensivedescriptionof 'alternativesto development', is no reason to reject the theory as a whole.3 Post-development theory's weaknesses should not be allowed to cause its insightful and radical critique of development to go unheard.However, the question of alternativesis an importantone, 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), as well as to discussions of what 'alternativesto development' may involve. 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, and that African scholars have had little to say about post-developmenttheory. While it seems that the critique of development offered by post-developmenttheory is exceptionally relevant to Africa, 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, as well as for more attentionto be given to Africa by those writing from a post-developmentperspective. Furthermore,I believe that a consideration of Africa by those adopting a post-developmentperspective could be valuable for the articulationof alternatives to development. The way in which African world-views and lifestyles differ from those of Western and Westernised regions, and the diversity of world-views and lifestyles in Africa could provide useful insights for those concerned with describing such alternatives. 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. In doing the above, three important questions will be dealt with: first, what is meant by post-developmenttheory's call for 'alternativesto development'? Second, why consider post-development theory from an African perspective? Third, 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), post-developmenttheory can be distinguishedfrom other critical approachesto development (such as dependency theory, 'alternativedevelopment'theory and 'humandevelopment') by its insistence that developmentbe rejected entirely, ratherthan better implemented or alteredin specific ways. This rejection appearsto emerge from a feeling that the negative consequenceswhich have been observedto result from development are intrinsic to development, ratherthan being unintentionalside-effects of it. 374


Thus the problem, from the perspective of post-development theorists, is not that the project of developmentwas poorly implementedand that it is necessary to find a better way to bring it about, but that the assumptions and ideas that are core to development are problematic, and so improved implementationis not the answer. Consider Rahnema (1997: 379) who says that development did not fail because governments, institutions and people implemented it poorly, but rather because it is 'the wrong answer to [its target populations'] needs and aspirations'.Development is thus to be rejected rather than reformed. 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. Thus, a particular form of developmentis being referredto in post-developmentliterature.In orderto make this distinction clear, I will, for the rest of the paper, 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'. I shall use 'development' without qualificationto refer to the concept of development used in a broaderway and applicable to a number of contexts. It should be acknowledgedhere that the ideas, theories and practices that have been associated with the term 'development' since the 1950s are diverse, and several of the theories about development are set up in opposition to other theories of development. The post-World War II era has seen development theories rooted in capitalist ideology, and others rooted in Marxist ideology; there have been approachespromotingstate-led developmentand others promoting market-led development; 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. 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', and others not, and that those which are not can and should set about achieving the 'development' which has thus far eluded them. This whole body of knowledge (with all its various strains) is rejected by post-developmenttheorists, but the idea that it is possible for a which will result in society to undergo some or other process of transformation, a better life for its inhabitants,is not. develPost-developmenttheorists clearly reject attemptsto reform the PWWII opment project in order to eliminate its negative effects. They pour scorn upon projects such as 'sustainable development', 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.4Post-development theorists ridicule such attempts. 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


'hard' development, but its content much the same. Post-developmenttheorists do not believe that talk of 'sustainabledevelopment', a 'basic needs' approach or other 'improvements'of the PwwnI developmentproject are a cause for hope, insisting that what is needed is to 'dethrone'development and 'leave it behind in pursuit of radically alternativevisions of social life' (O'Connor & Arnoux, 1993: 13). But what precisely do those calling for the abandonment the PwwII of development project mean? If development is defined most simply, 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. Thus a bud develops into a flower, a child into an adult, and a caterpillarinto a butterfly. Stripped of the connotations that have attached themselves to the concept over the past few decades, the concept 'development' is close in meaning to improvement, to amelioration, to desirable change. Surely post-development theorists cannot mean to reject the desirabilityof positive change when they call for an 'end to development'. Post-developmenttheorists' enthusiasm regarding the so-called New Social Movements, and other grassroots organisations aiming to bring about change in their communities, shows that such theorists certainly do not view positive social change as impossible or undesirable. It is here that the distinction made earlierbetween 'the Pwwii developmentproject' and 'development' becomes important.Post-developmenttheorists reject the Pwwii development project,ratherthan development.It could, indeed, 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, more often than not, do not come from the 'ThirdWorld') to be more desirable than the current situation. The call for an 'end to development' should not, however, be interpretedas a belief that the bettering of social organisationis impossible, nor as a call for a returnto earlier ways of life. While some post-developmenttheorists have not made this distinction clear, allowing for ambiguityregardingwhat is meant by their calls for 'alternativesto development', others have clearly pointed out that, while the Pwwii development project may be obsolete and bankrupt,the project of improving people's lives (which can more correctly carry the name 'development') must not be abandoned. This is made abundantly clear in the conclusion of The Post-Development Reader, where Rahnema& Bawtree (1997: 385, 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. Yet what they seek is of a quite differentnature.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!); that could leave them free to change the rules and the contents of change, according to their own culturally defined ethics and aspirations.

Thus, a call for 'alternativesto development' (perhapsmore correctlywrittenas 'alternativesto the PWWII developmentproject' in the context of this paper) is a 376


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


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


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, but also because it was misconceived. * 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, and does not take into account the diversity of experiences, needs and aspirationsof those it claims to assist. * 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, deprivationand inequity),but ratheras the pursuitof alternativeways to address these problems.

African difference,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. 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.I will argue that the way in which Africa is different from the West and Westernised world in terms of the values, world-views and lifestyles of its people (from now on referredto as Africa's difference); 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. Africa remains markedly different from the West. While Western influences are certainly evident in Africa, there are many aspects of African life which are relatively untouched by such influences. Africans, for the most part, still converse in indigenous languages (although Western languages are used in business and government),many Africans still live in African-style homes and eat almost exclusively African-style foods. Most importantly,Africans' worldviews and value systems remain noticeably different from those of Westerners.7 CulturallyAfricansremainclearly distinct and African lifestyles are significantly different from the lifestyles embraced by those in the West. This cultural difference has been considered relevant for the success or failure of the PwwII developmentproject.A recent publication,entitled CultureMatters:How Values Shape Human Progress (Harrison& Huntington,2000), discusses the relationship between culture and development. One chapter, authored by Daniel Etounga-Manguelle (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'.' He argues that, if the PwwII development project is to succeed in Africa, Africans need to undergo a 'culturaladjustment values and to inculcate the programme'in orderto get rid of 'progress-resistant' 379


'right' values in Africans.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, I think EtoungaManguelle makes one importantpoint: a project premised upon a set of values cannot succeed in the absence of those values. Just as a car cannot drive on a river and a boat cannot float down a road, a project which has its roots in particularassumptionsand values cannot succeed in the absence of the relevant assumptionsand values.'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)." Etounga-Manguelleconcludes that certain African values are incompatiblewith the PwwII developmentproject and therefore that these values must go. However, he ignores the obvious alternative: perhaps the values ought to remain and the PwwII development project should values may be cause for dismay go. The persistenceof these 'progress-resistant' among those committedto the PwwII developmentproject, but it is surely cause for celebration among those who have declared the PwwII development project obsolete and bankrupt.If Africa does not have the values needed for this form of development to succeed, then those who believe that Africa would be better off if it did not succeed, can hope that these 'progress-resistant' values may be of assistance in the articulationof alternatives.Thus Africa's difference may provide some key pointers towards a different set of goals and practices aimed at better addressingproblems such as poverty, deprivationand inequity. In additionto being differentfrom the West, various African communitiesare different from one another.While certain values appearto be more common in African culturesthan in other cultures,there is considerablediversity among the cultures of Africa. Africa can be said to be home to a numberof different ways of understandingand being. Those who recognise the poverty of the way of understanding being that underpinsthe PwwII developmentproject, 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.Kothari(1990: 49-50) argues something similar with regardto Asia and the Middle East, 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.Africa too has many religions (and many of its own manifestationsof world religions like Islam and Christianity)and many civilisations, and Africa too should thus be considereda valuable source of ideas for those who are committed to finding alternatives.This is not to imply that African ways of life are necessarily superior to other ways (nor necessarily inferior),nor to say that Africa ought to be the unique or primarysource of the values and world-views informing the articulationof alternatives,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. It is not only possible to theorise that Africa's difference and diversity can 380


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. Theorists loyal to the Pwwii development project lament the way in which African communities have failed to achieve 'development', 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. Instead of embracing the goals and practicesof the PWWII developmentproject, some African communities conceive of different ways of addressingproblems of poverty and inequity by drawing on African cultural values and perspectives. The book Re'anventerle pre'sent(N'Dione, 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, and shows how these communitiesreject the PWWII developmentproject ratherthan simply failing to achieve this project's objectives. 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, 1994). The Post-Development Reader includes a chapter based on this book (N'Dione et al, 1997). In this chapter it is pointed out that several of the assumptions which are core to the PVWII development project are far from universal, and that their lack of universality results in the rejectionof the PwWIIdevelopmentprojectby communities who do not share these supposedly universal assumptions.One example given relates to different assumptions with regard to the exchange of goods. 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. However, some Senegalese communities assume something quite different: they assume that to give confers respectabilityon a person, and that Person A, who has in excess, will give without any expectationof a measurableand equivalentreturn, because the act of giving (ratherthan having) confers prestige (N'Dione et al, 1997: 371). This is one small example, but it illustratesthe importantpoint that the values that the PWWII development project assumes to be universal are not. Development projects cannot succeed unless the values which inform them are shared by the community in which they are implemented. 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. The Camerooniantheologian-sociologist Jean-MarcEla (1998: 3) makes this clear when he says: of of It Africais not againstdevelopment. dreams otherthingsthanthe expansion values the that a cultureof deathor an alienating modernity destroys fundamental worldof material thanan all-embracing .Africa sees further so dearto Africans.. 381


of thingsandthe dictatorship the hereandnow, thatinsistson tryingto persuade us thatthe only validmottois 'I sell, therefore am'. In a worldoftendevoidof I Africais a reminder thereare otherways of being. that meaning,

Commentsand conclusions
The failure of the Pwwii development project, in Africa and the rest of the so-called 'developing' world, must be recognised. After half a century of theories and practices claiming to bring about development, the poor remain poor, inequities persist and grow more stark, and aspirationsto a better future remain, for the most part, only aspirations. Post-development theorists have pointed out the failings of the PwwII development project, and have suggested that these failings are the result of deep flaws in the ideas which inform this project of development, ratherthanjust superficialproblems regardingthe way in which the project has been implemented. In the light of these flaws, they assert, the PwwII development project ought to be abandonedaltogether. These conclusions lead to a question-if we abandonthe PwwII development project, what is it that is to guide our attemptsto better our lives, 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,but new guiding ideas, where will we find these ideas? In this paper, I have suggested that a consideration of the African experience is valuable for those who are keen to articulatealternatives.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.Rather,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. Thus far, African academics have not paid much attention to the arguments of post-developmenttheorists, and post-developmenttheorists have paid relatively little attentionto the African experience. If this situationchanges, 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. These building bricks can be joined by building bricks from other parts of the world, 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.

Notes I Among such scholars are Alvares (1992), Escobar(1984, 1988, 1991, 1992, 1995), Ferguson(1990), Illich

(1979, 1997), Kothari (1990, 1995), Latouche (1993), Rahnema (1992, 1997), Rist (1990, 1997) Sachs (1992), and Seabrook (1993). This can be seen in Sachs' (1992) The DevelopmentDictionary:A Guide to Knowledge as Power, which is almost exclusively a critiqueof development.Escobar's (1995) EncounteringDevelopment:The Making and Unmaking of the Third World only tackles the question of alternatives in the final chapter, 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.


AN AFRICAN VIEW OF POST-DEVELOPMENT THEORY Like Nustad (2001), I believe post-development theory's critique of development to be useful, despite several limitations. In the interests of space I will not provide a detailed discussion of post-development theory, but will work from the assumption that it is a set of valuable and useful ideas, regardless of its limitations. 4 In the case of sustainable development, there is most often an attempt to maintain a commitment to economic growth, industrialisation,modernisation and other key aspects of pwwii development, while simultaneouslypreventingenvironmentaldestruction.It should be acknowledged here that there are other ways of interpretingsustainabledevelopment, but that the dominant understandingof sustainable development is the one described. Consider here Ela (1998), Dahl & Megerssa (1995) and N'Dione et al (1995). 6 6 Consider for example Bond (2002), Civil Society Indaba (2002), Longwe (2002), Nabudere (2002), Ngwane (2002), Pheko (2002), South African Catholic Bishops Conference (2002) and Vale (2002). 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. Rather, I would like to make a much more simple point: Africans living today live in ways that are differentto Westerners living today, and there are significant differences between the world-views and value systems that are commonplace in contemporaryAfrica and those in contemporaryEurope and North America. This is not to deny the diversity in both regions, nor to suggest that the two are permanentlyand essentially different. Etounga-Maguellebelieves that Africa has a 'foundationof shared values, attitudes, and institutions' that binds it together, and that it is these values, attitudes and institutions which are to be blamed for the failure of 'development' in Africa. 9 See Harrison (2001) for a summary of Etounga-Manguelle's argument. 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,but ratherthat it can only succeed in a culturewhich has the relevant assumptionsand values (althoughthe two culturesmay differ in several significantways). Thus, the Pwwii developmentproject could be said to have succeeded in various cultural settings, but I would like to argue that certain key values and assumptionsare common to all cultures in which the Pwwii developmentprojectsucceeded,even while the cultureswere also differentin certainways. l Writers like Etounga-Manguelle can be criticised for ignoring the influence of colonialism (which Etounga-Mangeullesays cannot 'reasonablybe blamed' for Africa's condition), the exploitation of Africa, and the inequities of the global economic system which, along with several other complex factors, must also be considered when determining why the PwwII development project failed in Africa.

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