Know The Beginning Well

Lifelong development worker, K. Y. Amoako reflects on a career with the World Bank and United Nations in "Know the Beginning Well: An Inside Journey Through Five Decades of African Development" (2020). The book is interesting in that the author shares inside views, but lacks critical reflection and does not offer any bold or new calls on 'the development question'. A few notes:

"The issue of racism and discrimination in the World Bank predated my arrival and outlasted my departure. I've mentioned the difficult environment that Africans faced in the 1970s, but the truth is that people of color - whether born in Africa, America, or anywhere else - have always had a tough time reaching the Bank's highest levels. According to data compiled for an internal review in 2003 and reported by the Washington based government accountability project in 2009, Black Bank employees were 36 present less likely to hold a managerial grade relative to equally qualified, non-black employees. Numbers like these are indicative of a pervasive imbalance, which the Bank has taken increasing steps to address: a racial equality program in 1998, an office in diversity program in 2001, and a code of conduct in 2009 that addressed discrimination and diversity, still the issue persists." (p. 45)

"Kofi Annan turned toward Meles and spoke before anyone else could. "I'm sure some men in your cabinet turn out to be incompetent," he said. "Why not give women a chance? they have a right to be incompetent too." (p. 237)

"He looked back at the most powerful men at the IMF and World Bank and told them point-black that African countries disliked working with their institutions - but had no choice. "Gentleman," he added, "if we were not poor, we would not come to you for help." That acknowledgement, a surprisingly raw statement that no one saw coming, summed up years of frustration for policymakers in developing African countries: without external lending and aid, there can be no long term development-but at what point will lenders start treating borrowers as partners and not beggars?" (p. 381)

"I issued a special invitation to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, an exceptionally thoughtful and forthright leader. True to his reputation, Meles deconstructed a litany of problems with the onerous business of donor assistance: the bureaucratic requirements, the contradictory conditions, the lack of clear criteria for compliance, the process of trying aid to the purchase of goods and services from donor countries, and the practice of seeking political influence through assistance. All these issues and more imperilled the effective use of aid, Meles argued, and they needed to be addressed alongside any discussion of ODA flows. His ultimate point was that donor accountability for development financing meant so much more than big commitments." (p. 395-396) 

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Decolonizing Politics

Robbie Shilliam wrote "Decolonizing Politics: An Introduction" in 2021, and it is thankfully affordable for an academic book ($18). The book takes a different road to the conversation that ones I had read, and in that regard it was interest and a great place for new insights. The level of text is well suited to undergraduate students, which is a welcome addition as many of authors writing in this area are really suitable for graduate level and not accessible beyond a niche. Recommended for consideration in your classes.

Note: For some reason the text of the book was not searchable (even via Google Books), which I usually use to double check the quotes. If you notice any errors, appreciate if you can let me know.

"There is an easy option to decolonizing the study of politics. You can simply search for the most exotic forms of politics around the world and revel in their alien-ness. But in doing so, you'd keep the 'familiar' familiar and the 'unfamiliar' unfamiliar. There would be no intimate engagement between 'them' and 'us'. No question raised as to what counts as 'exotic' to whom and why. No stakes at play. Put another way, if you moved your focus to a study of the "margins" only, then that would leave the "Center" intact. Your movement would thereby avoid difficult but compelling questions such as: Who made their lives central and other people's lives marginal? And, by what logic are the margins divided from the center?" (p. 2)

"In what follows, I recontextualize, reconceptualize, and reimagined four popular subfields of political science: political theory, political behavior, development in comparative politics, and war and peace in international relations." (p. 18)

"In his anthropological writings, Kant maps out a particular geography of race which betrays a fundamental logic of difference: the white race can fulfill human potential; the other races cannot. I will suggest that the universal rights of which Kant boasts are only universal to those racially counted as properly human, that is white European men, when it comes to the rest of humanity, Kant provides a practical guide for their colonization." (p. 27)

"While Darwin, Spencer, and Galton differed on the mechanisms and consequences of inheritance and evolution, all of them eventually asserted that mental fitness differed between human groups. What's more all of them proposed that the human struggle envisioned by Malthus took place between races. The science of heredity was avowedly a race science. Empire and colonial rule were fundamentally implicated in the rare logics of this science via concerns for the integrity of the anglo-saxon race as it emigrated to the four corners of the earth as urbanisation in the imperial centre mixed populations within a dysgenic industrial landscape." (p. 61) 

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Dugin on Racism

Part 3 on Dugin's works (see Part 1 and Part 2).

Many of the attacks and/or associations made of Dugin suggest his philosophy is "far right" and connected with white supremacist movements. While such groups or actors may use his works and some publishers associated with such ideologies, that does not in and of itself mean Dugin holds such views. On race and racism, from his book The Fourth Political Theory (2009 original, 2012 translation), he writes:

"Hitler's racism, however, is only one form of racism – this type of racism is the most obvious, straightforward, biological, and therefore the most repulsive. There are other forms of racism – cultural racism (asserting that there are high and low cultures), civilizational (dividing people into those civilized and those insufficiently civilized), technological (viewing technological development as the main criterion of societal value), social (stating, in the spirit of the Protestant doctrine of predestination, that the rich are the best and the greatest as compared to the poor), economic racism (based on which all humanity is ranked according to regions of material well-being), and evolutionary racism (for which it is axiomatic that human society is the result of biological development, in which the basic processes of evolution of the species – survival of the fittest, natural selection, etc. – continue today). The European and American society is fundamentally afflicted with this type of racism, unable to eradicate it from itself despite all the effort." (p. 44)

"The newest types of racism are glamour, fashion, and following the latest informational trends. The norms are set by models, designers, party socialites, and the owners of the latest version of mobile phones or laptop computers. Conformity or nonconformity with the glamour code is located at the very base of the mass strategies for social segregation and cultural apartheid. Today, this is not associated directly with the economic factor, but is gradually gaining independent sociological features: this is the ghost of the glamour dictatorship – the new generation of racism." (p. 45)

"As one of its essential features, the "Fourth Political Theory" rejects all forms and varieties of racism and all forms of normative hierarchization of societies based on the ethnic, religious, social, technological, economic, or cultural grounds. Societies can be compared, but we cannot state that one of them is objectively better than the others. Such an assessment is always subjective, and any attempt to raise a subjective assessment to the status of a theory is racism." (p. 46)

"Today, we reject and criticize fascism for its racial component, but we forget that this ideology is also built on the ideas of progress and evolution just like the other two political theories of modernity. If we were to visualize the essence of the Nazi ideology and the role of progress and evolution in it, then the connection between racism and evolution would become obvious to us. This connection – in a concealed form – can be seen in liberalism and even in communism. Even if not biological, we see cultural, technological, and economic racism in the ideology of the "free market" and in the dictatorship of the proletariat." (p. 59) 

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Black Rights / White Wrongs - Critique of Racial Liberalism

In 2017 Charles W. Mills brought together past work with more recent additions and reflections into the book "Black Rights / While Wrongs: The Critique of Radical Liberalism". For readers of The Racial Contract (1997), many of the key arguments will be familiar in this book. The author passed away in 2021, this book brings together much of his critical political and philosophical thought for those unfamiliar with his work. A few notes from the book:

"... the hope of redeeming liberalism by self-consciously taking this history into account: recognizing the historic racialization of liberalism so as better to deracialize it - thereby producing a color-conscious, racially reflexive, anti-racist liberalism on the alert for it's own inherited racial distortions. Abstract Platonized liberalism erases actual liberalism's racist history, a blinding white Form that, in pretending a colorlessness that it did not and does not achieve, obfuscates more that it illuminates. The problem is not abstraction as such but a problematic mode of idealizing abstraction that abstracts away from social oppression, and in that way both conceals its extent and inhibits the development of the conceptual tools necessary for understanding and dealing with its workings." (p. xv)

"The promise of liberalism was famously the granting of equal rights to all individuals, destroying the old social hierarchies and establishing a new social order where everybody, as an individual, could flourish, free of "estate" membership. But the reality turned out to be the preservation, albeit on a new theoretical foundation, of old hierarchies of gender and the establishment of new hierarchies of race. Thus the struggle to realize the liberal ideal for everybody and not just a privileged minority still continues today, centuries later. If this struggle is to ever be successful, a prerequisite must be the acknowledgement of the extent to which dominant varieties of liberalism have developed so as to be complicit with rather that in opposition to social oppression." (p. xxi)

"Racial liberalism, or white liberalism, is the actual liberalism that has been historically dominant since modernity: a liberal theory whose terms originally restricted full personhood to whites (or, more accurately, white men) and relegated nonwhites to an inferior category, so that it's schedule of rights and prescriptions of justice were all color-coded. Ascriptive hierarchy is abolished for white men but not for white women or people of color." (p. 31)

"Kant believed in a natural racial hierarchy, with whites at the top, and blacks and Native Americans ("savages") at the bottom. He saw the last two races as natural slaves incapable of cultural achievement, and accordingly (like an old time southern segregationist) he opposed intermarriage as leading to the degradation of whites. Ultimately, he thought, the planet would become all white." (p. 97)

"Unlike the current, more fashionable "white privilege," "white supremacy" implies the existence of a system that does not just privilege whites but is also run by whites for white benefit. As such it is a global conception, including not just the socio-economic but also the juridical, political, cultural, and ideational realms." (p. 117)

"... if a single textural (non-)reference could be chosen to summarize and epitomize Rawls' lack of concern about race it is the following startling fact: nowhere in these 2,000 pages on justice penned over five decades by the American philosopher most celebrated for his work on social justice is the most important American postwar measure of corrective racial justice - affirmative action - even mentioned. It is not merely that the concept is not discussed - even the term itself never appears. Such is the whiteness of Rawls' dikailogical world." (p. 147)

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