Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few

Two of the prominent front runners of the US presidential election positions themselves as "anti-establishment" and campaigned to take away the power of the elites and return that power to the people. Reich's recent book "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few" (2015) took on many of the issues; essentially questions about democracy, power, law and justice. This book outlines what the rules that structure capitalism are, how they are used, and what impact they have. And, optimistically looks at how different rules better serve the majority.

Reich presents an accessible book, written for a non-expert audience, presenting how the 'rules of the game' of capitalism can benefit a powerful elite or the majority. And, it provides examples from the American context of how these struggles have been navigated in history. In general, the author presents a story of how the rules that govern corporate activity were adjusted to include the majority in the past (not always easily, but in the end). However, in the recent decades, these shifts / re-adjustments have not taken place. Inequality has rapidly risen, earnings (wages) have stagnated for average workers, and a minority of a minority has become extremely, unfathomably wealthy. "My solution" the author writes "and I am hardly along in suggesting this – has been an activist government that raises taxes on the wealthy, invests the proceeds in excellent schools and other means people need to get ahead, and redistributes to the needy… I've come to believe it overlooks a critically important phenomenon: the increasing concentration of political power in a corporate and financial elite that has been able to influence the rules by which the economy runs" (p. xii-xiii). The way forward: "the only way to reverse course it for the vast majority who now lack influence over the rules of the game to become organized and unified, in order to re-establish the countervailing power that was the key to widespread prosperity five decades ago" (p. xv).

Before delving into some of the specifics of Reich's arguments and evidence, based on the above summary I wish to make the following note: The author does an excellent job identifying the issues and providing concrete examples of what the rules of the game mean and how they are manipulated. While there are ideas about what new rules might look like, there are fewer ideas of how 'the people' will organize and unify to make change. Those that are presented (create/support third political parties, create/support unions) are ones that are difficult to establish because of the way the current system operates. For books that explore in greater detail how power can be disrupted and redistributed, one might read Green's (2016) How Change Happens or Alinsky's (1971) Rules for Radicals.

Throughout much of Reich's book, the author tries to break down the myth that the real issue is more/less government involved in the market. Rather, it is the rules that exist in either case. "The "free market" is a myth that prevents us from examining these rule changes and asking who they serve. The myth is therefore highly useful to those who do not wish such an examination to be undertaken. It is no accident that those with disproportionate influence over these rules, who are the largest beneficiaries of how the rules have been designed and adapted, are also among the most vehement supporters of the "free market" and the most ardent advocates of the relative superiority of the market over government. But the debate itself also serves their goal of distracting the public from the underlying realities of how the rules are generated and changed, their own power over this process, and the extent to which they gain from the results" (p. 6-7).

The book offers plenty of examples of how the rules of the game are rigged. I'll repeat one of them: "Monsanto has the distinction of spending more on lobbying – nearly $7 million in 2013 alone – than any other agribusiness. And Monsanto's former (and future) employees frequently inhabit top posts at the Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department, they staff congressional committees that deal with agriculture policy, and they become advisors to congressional leaders and the White House. Two Monsanto lobbyists are former congressman Vic Fazio and former senator Blanche Lincoln. Even Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas was at one time an attorney for Monsanto. Monsanto, like any new monopoly, has strategically used its economic power to gain political power and used its political power to entrench its market power" (p. 35-36).

The problem is a shift of who has power, and the solution is re-shifting that power. Reich writes: "The underlying problem, then, is not that average working Americans are "worth" less in the market than they had been, or that they have been living beyond their means. The problem is that they have steadily lost the bargaining power needed to receive as large a portion of the economy's gains as they commanded in the first three decades after World War II" (p. 131). "The essential challenge" therefore "is political rather than economic. It is impossible to reform an economic system whose basic rules are under the control of an economic elite without altering the allocation of political power that lies behind that control" (p. 168). The book ends with:

"The coming challenge is not to technology or to economics. It is a challenge to democracy. The critical debate for the future is not about the size of government; it is about who government is for. The central choice is not between the "free market" and the government; it is between a market organized for broadly based prosperity and one designed to deliver almost all the gains to a few at the top. The pertinent issue is not how much is to be taxed away from the wealthy and redistributed to those who are not; it is how to design the rules of the market so that the economy generates what most people would consider a fair distribution on its own, without necessitating large redistributions after the fact. The vast majority of the nation's citizens do have the power to alter the rules of the market to meet their needs. But to exercise that power, they must understand what is happening and where their interests lie, and they must join together. We have done so before. If history is any guide and common sense has any sway, we will do so again." (p. 219)

Orientalism

Few books have been as widely read and cited as Orientalism (1978) by Edward Said. Reading Orientalism now, it is hard to understand its importance because so many of Said's ideas have become part of a broader cultural and post-colonial critiques. Despite its influence, in a 2003 Preface, the author writes: "The disheartening part is that the more the critical study of cultural shows us that this is the case, the less influence such a view seems to have, and the more territorially reductive polarizations like "Islam v. the West" seem to conquer" (p. xxiii). More people understand the message, but it appears to carry less weight. One may disagree with the book, or specific points made within it, but it should be on everyone's essential reading list.

Said writes of a deep history wherein the study of others – specifically Arabs and Muslims – has entrenched ideas of superiority, and for centuries portrayed Arabs and Muslims as lesser than human, irrational, evil. "These contemporary Orientalist attitudes flood the press and the popular mind. Arabs, for example, are thought of as camel-riding, terroristic, hook-nosed, venal lechers whose underserved wealth is an affront to real civilization. Always there lurks the assumption that although the Western consumer belongs to a numerical minority, he is entitled either to own or to expend (or both) the majority of the world resources. Why? Because he, unlike the Oriental, is a true human being" (p. 108). Importantly, these portrayals are means of self-definition – what "they" are, and what "we" are not; what "we" are, and what "they" are not. Said begins his book in stating that the "Orient has helped to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting image, idea, personality, experience (p. 1-2).

At its core, this is a book not about portrayal of others, it is a book about what that portrayal means when the individual, group, nation or Empire conveying it has power and authority. "There is nothing mysterious or natural about authority. It is formed, irradiated, disseminated; it is instrumental, it is persuasive; it has status, it established canons of tastes and value; it is virtually indistinguishable from certain ideas it dignifies as true, and from traditions, perceptions, and judgements it forms, transmits, reproduces. Above all, authority can, indeed must, by analyzed" (p. 19-20). That power and authority, in the realm of ideas, can be reinforcing: "If one reads a book claiming that lions are fierce and then encounters a fierce lion (I simplify, of course), the changes are that one will be encourages to read more books by that same author, and believe them" (p. 93)

In the portrayal of others, Said argues, there is something more than incorrect information. These portrayals of others as lesser than human serves a purpose, it is a tactic and a tool that is intentionally utilized: "My whole point about this system is not that it is a misinterpretation of some Oriental essence – in which I do not for a moment believe – but that it operates as representations usually do, for a purpose, according to a tendency, in a specific historical, intellectual, and even economic setting. In other words, representations have purposes, they are effective much of the time, they accomplish one or many tasks" (p. 273). Consider the author's assessment of Arabs and Muslims in the media – and recall that this is Said writing in 1978, not 2016:

"the Arab is associated either with lechery or bloodthirsty dishonesty. He appears as an oversexed degenerate, capable, it is true, of cleverly devious intrigues, but essentially sadistic, treacherous, low. Slave trader, camel driver, moneychanger, colorful scoundrel: these are some traditional Arab roles in the cinema. The Arab leader (of marauders, pirates, "native" insurgents) can often be seen snarling at the captured Western hero and the blond girl (both of them steeped in wholesomeness), "My men are going to kill you, but – they like to amuse themselves before." He leers suggestively as he speaks: this is a current debasement of Valentino's Sheik. In newsreels or newsphotos, the Arab is always shown in large numbers. No individuality, no personal characteristics or experiences. Most of the pictures represent mass rage and misery, or irrational (hence hopelessly eccentric) gestures. Lurking behind all of these images is the menace of jihad. Consequence: a fear that the Muslims (or Arabs) will take over the world. Books and articles are regularly published on Islam and the Arabs that represent absolutely no change over the virulent anti-Islamic polemics of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance" (p. 286-287).

In the 2003 Preface Said speaks of a responsibility – not of one's choosing but of "force of circumstance" – of those who cross boundaries and can transmit and translate ideas between worlds: "For those of us who by force of circumstance actually live the pluri-cultural life as it entails Islam and the West, I have long felt that a special intellectual and moral responsibility attaches to what we do as scholars and intellectuals. Certainly, I think it is incumbent upon us to complicate and/or dismantle the reductive formulae and the abstract but potent kind of thought that leads the mind away from concrete human history and experience and into the realms of ideological fiction, metaphysical confrontation, and collective passion" (p. xxiii).

Q-Squared

Random control trials and ethnographic studies use very different approaches to answer research questions. Often the underlying epistemological foundations differ, the means of measurement differ, and the process of understanding causation differ. But, does it matter? It one approach more accurate than another? Do qualitative and quantitative studies arrive at similar conclusions? These questions are addressed in "Q-Squared: Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches in Poverty Analysis" (2013) by Paul Shaffer. He writes that "such methodological approaches are not 'good' or 'bad' in themselves, but they do have implications for how we understand and explain poverty, and what we propose to do about it… A core objective of this book is to examine the underlying assumptions and implications of how we conceptualize and investigate poverty" (p. 3).

Shaffer speaks about the progression of understanding, with a 'first generation' of research seeking to answer the question if the different approaches arrive at similar results: "Many of the initial Q2 studies examined if local conceptions and income/consumption poverty identified the same individuals/households, or characteristics of individuals/households, as poor, and/or if they were generating similar findings with respect to poverty levels and trends. The core conclusion of this body of literature was that systematic differences did in fact exist on all counts" (p. 34). In summary: it matters. The results are not the same. In explaining why this the case, Shaffer writes "a major part of the explanation has to do with the different dimensions of poverty highlighted by the two poverty approaches. There are other potential reasons as well, relating to perverse consumption, population coverage, intrahousehold issues, visibility bias, recall, and nostalgia bias" (p. 39).

The 'second generation' of research set out to test if qualitative and quantitative approaches could be combined to improve the way we study poverty, resulting in experimentation and a host of methodologies. "The second generation of Q2 analysis attempted to bridge such differences [those identified in the first generation of study] by incorporating locally meaningful definitions, weights, and thresholds of poverty into the analysis in ways that addressed concerns of interpersonal comparisons and external validity" (p. 57). One area of research I felt under explored, which emerged during this same time period, was a greater recognition of integrating the importance of politics and power – a subject that Shaffer does not address in much detail in his examples.

For those working within the space of mixed methods research, the conclusions of the book are not new. Shaffer summarizes: "Of the many issues raised throughout this book, two central messages stand out. First, foundations matter. Foundational assumptions have implications for the conceptual categories and analytical lens we use. They determine what counts as reliable knowledge and 'hard' evidence, how to ascertain validity, how causation is defined and causal claims established empirically and so forth. Foundations also matter for research results, when, for example, different approaches to poverty come to different conclusions about 'who is poor' or different conceptions of causation arrive at different conclusions about the causal impact of development programmes… The second central message is that mixed method analyses add value" (p. 107).

The book is largely a summary of findings and research trends, and as such would be useful for upper undergraduate or graduate students. There are useful summaries and signposts throughout that make for easy reading and reference. Some aspects of the book may be unsuitable for undergraduate audiences, and instead specific chapters selected for course work reading. An important strength of the book is that I think it is suitable both for an economist interested in anthropological approaches, as well as an anthropologist interested in statistical analyses. Not an easy task, but Shaffer explains the importance and value of different approaches that it could be used in for students of diverse academic backgrounds.

Most read in 2016

As is tradition on most blogs, the most popular stories / articles / posts of the year are summarized. I am somewhat late in reporting, nonetheless, the most read posts on this site of 2016 were:

  1. PhD Reality Check
  2. Conducting Research in Ethiopia, Read This.
  3. Systematic Change (Healthcare)
  4. Essential Development Studies Books (Review)
  5. Effective Aid (Agriculture)

Popularity was largely a result of other people's influence. Most commonly a Twitter mention resulted in a noticeable spike in traffic. Subscribers will have noticed I stopped posting graduate funding opportunities – for the moment there appears to be limited interest in this type of information, and will focus more on the review of books and longer posts on specific topics (which are what readers have been most interested in). Open to feedback and input on that decision. 

What I've been reading

​It has been a month since my last post on a book. Took a detour away from development studies reading over the break, even if a minor one. Some of my recent reads have included:

  1. Human Rights in Cross-cultural Context (1995) edited by An-Naim. An early collection of essays that challenge the universality of human rights. A couple of chapters are quite good (Chapters 1, 6, 13, Conclusion). As is typical, the earliest arguments tend not to be the strongest (they start the thinking), but always good to recognize where ideas were developed.
  2. On the Muslim Question (2013) by Norton. A book not about "them" and "their problems" but how discrimination, hatred and torture are challenges to "us" and of "our" values. Challenges assumptions throughout, excellent reading for upper undergraduate and graduate students. Highly recommended.
  3. The Ethics Rupture (2016) edited by van den Hoonaard and Hamilton. While interesting, I found the majority of the criticisms and arguments unconvincing.
  4. Arabian Sands (1959) by Thesiger. Excellent read, brilliant writer. Transports readers to a different time and place. Author is somewhat a product of his time, as we all are, but generally a person who expressed a great respect for others. 
  5. ​Who Rules the World? (2016) by Chomsky. If you have read his earlier works, this one does not add much new to the repertoire. If you are new to Chomsky, other titles (like Hegemony or Survival) are recommended.

How Change Happens

Governments, activists, NGOs, politicians and development programs all want change. It is why donor dollars are raised and people protest in the streets. But, how much do we actually know, or reflect upon, how change actually happens – and to what extent is that embedded within how development works? "How Change Happens" (2016) by Duncan Green, blogging celebrity of From Poverty to Power, seeks to answer these questions. The book is available open access, as is the author's last book, From Poverty to Power (2012). It is "for activists who want to change the world" (p. 2), but the author does not offer a manual for change. "Indeed one of its conclusions is that reliance on checklist toolkits is on the things that is holding us back. Instead it offers a combination of analysis, questions, and case studies, with the aim of helping readers look afresh at both the obstacles and the enthralling processes of change going on all around them, and to gain some new energy and ideas about how to contribute" (p. 5).

Avid followers of Duncan's blog will encounter some familiar terrain. I have not focused on the norms and institutions that make up significant parts of the book, rather upon a selection of specific points that I think contribute in unique ways to the conversation about how change happens, starting with a reminder for those skeptical of any change at all: "People seeking change are often impatient, intent on addressing the problems of the world. In the words of one of the greatest activists of them all, they are consumed by 'the fierce urgency of now.' From the perspective of 'now', institutions appear to be permanent and unchanging; in fact, they often depend upon that appearance for their credibility. But 'now' is merely a moment on the continuum of history, and history shows us that the status quo is far less fixed than is appears" (p. 75).

Green offers a sufficient amount of detail to challenge notions of simplicity found in the toolkits and checkbox lists, without burdening readers with drawn out contextual information. For example: "In fragile states, where power resides mostly in outside the state, activists may be better off working at a local level, with municipal officials and non-state bodies like traditional leaders and faith groups. In developmental states, engaging directly with efficient bureaucracies, using research and argument rather than street protest, often makes for a better (and safer) influencing strategy than challenging politicians… In more patrimonial systems, the best influencing strategy may be to network directly with those in power" (p. 91). The book is full of similar short notes that provide food for thought and illuminate points with examples that may not have been considered.

Politicking and creating political parties are not often priorities on the list of activists. Yet, Green argues that some successful "social movements organize as parties because as movements they tend to rise and fall in sudden bursts of protest and can rarely muster the long-term engagement with the state required to achieve lasting change. What's more, civil society organizations find it hard to make any legitimate claim to represent the will of the people because no-one has elected them" (p. 116). At the same time, not all movements and organizations should become political parties. "Civil society can help the state become more effective, and states can in turn promote citizen activism by addressing" different kinds of power (p. 190). Thus, civil society itself has an important function outside of politics. The author has weaved diverse examples throughout to demonstrate different pathways to how change can occur, rather than promote a specific action (although a particular approach – the power and systems approach is promoted as a means to help determine what pathway(s) ought to be taken). Indeed "the range of possible advocacy tactics is limited only by the imagination of the advocates"(p. 217).

At the outset, Green writes that he "was moved to write this book by a combination of excitement, fascination, and frustration" (p. 1). The self-reflective style of writing is engaging, particularly when Green grapples with the intersection between excitement, fascination, and frustration. For example: "Based on research in Pakistan, Masooda Bano argues that aid often erodes the cooperation that underpins CSOs. When foreign money flows in, the unpaid activists that form the core of such organizations can lose trust in their leaders, whom they now suspect of pocketing aid dollars. In Bosnia, my conversations with CSOs suggest that even their supporters view them as little more than 'briefcase CSOs', only interested in winning funding. I find such conversations painful, as they force me to acknowledge that the aid dollars Oxfam has spent so many years advocating for can in some circumstances do more harm than good" (p. 192).

I found the commentary on the role of leadership an important addition. As Green notes "aid technocrats avoid discussions of leadership, because it rapidly gets political and clouds the seductive purity of 'evidence-based policy making'" (p. 199). Activists too "tend downplay the role of leaders and leadership in driving change. Development studies as a discipline has little to say about the Big Man in the presidential palace, and even less about leadership from below" (p. 198). Green writes: "Part of the art of outstanding political leaders such as Gandhi or Mandela lies in their ability to go beyond merely reflecting public norms and instead influence them for the better. Even the endless reception of simple messages, which may be one of the most off-putting aspects of politicians' daily lives, helps challenge old norms and cement new ones. Of course, politicians can also reinforce norms that should change, for example, by whipping up hatred against ethnic or religious minorities or desperate migrants" (p. 53-54). There are some emerging program supporting emerging leaders, but these remain few and far between, and often ones that support established leaders rather than strengthen the skills, network, capacity and opportunities of emerging ones.

Duncan Green is hopeful that the simplified narratives of complex realities, remedied by simple solutions, are (slowly) changing. Different approaches to storytelling show that the good/bad narrative is not the only means to tell an effective story (although certainly it has been used to tell compelling ones, even if they are not entirely factual). "Such narratives squeeze out the more nuanced views of local people and the deeper, underlying causes of conflict, and end up promoting superficial victories rather than real change" (p. 223). I am somewhat less optimistic that the messier stories of complex systems and power will have the same broad appeal as the simple ones – but such stories need not always have broad appeal and strategic approaches might be tailored as we navigate from simplicity to complexity. 

New Publication: Vulnerability and Adaptive Capacity in Ethiopia

Cochrane, L. and Gecho, Y. (2016) The Dynamics of Vulnerability and Adaptive Capacity in Southern Ethiopia (p. 139-148). In Responses to Disasters and Climate Change: Understanding Vulnerability and Fostering Resilience, edited by M. Companion and M. Chaiken. CRC Press: Boca Raton.

Abstract

  • ​Agriculture accounts for more than 40% of the Ethiopian economy, 85% of all employment, and is driven primarily by rural smallholders. Those living in rural areas face a range of short-term, seasonal, annual, and long-term vulnerabilities. This chapter analyzes the range of dynamic, and sometimes unpredictable, challenges in Wolaita Zone, southern Ethiopia. We explore how individuals proactively manage vulnerabilities and seek means to enhance their adaptive capacity. These findings demonstrate that smallholders are engaging in change, highlighting the important role of their agency in understanding vulnerability and resilience.

New Publication: Debt & Rural Development (Ethiopia)

Cochrane, L. and Thornton, A. (2017) A Socio-Cultural Analysis of Smallholder Borrowing and Debt in Southern Ethiopia. Journal of Rural Studies 49: 69-77.

Abstract

  • This paper combines qualitative and quantitative research methods in an exploratory study of borrowing and debt in rural southern Ethiopia in order to understand the complexities of the rural finance system and frequency of borrowing and debt in rural, smallholder settings. By comparing geospatial location in relation to access to infrastructure, markets and services within a single agroecological setting, we explore the ways in which these factors influence the frequency of borrowing, sources, amounts and interest rates involved, as well as the duration and extent of borrowing and debt. We find great variation amongst the communities studied, highlighting the importance of the localized nature of borrowing and debt and identify barriers and opportunities that will support the (re)adjusting of policies and programs that would enable smallholder households to overcome cycles of borrowing and debt, and build assets.
The full article is gated. But available here. Abstract and further publication details available via the link above. If you would like a copy of the article, send me an email.

Visiting Fellowships 2017/18 Shanghai University

The Center for the History of Global Development, Shanghai University, invites applications for fellowships for visiting scholars working on projects related to the history of policies, concepts, practices or debates related to socio-economic development on local, national, regional or global levels. The Center for the History of Global Development is a new research focus established at the College of Liberal Arts at Shanghai University. Through conferences, workshops, publications and discussion panels, the Center seeks to contribute to interdisciplinary scholarly debates on the repercussions of "development" as a phenomenon which has shaped much of recent global history while remaining conceptually vague or contradictory.

"Development," in its most basic form, is understood as the idea that socio-economic conditions would and should improve and that specific policies should be employed to bring about such improvements. Beyond this core, development has been a highly contested concept, whose constructed character has repeatedly been emphasized. Critics point to international structures created in the name of development which have often reflected power inequalities and have served the interests of those that put them in place while doing little to improve living conditions of those at whom they were allegedly addressed. Other scholars identify perceived successes of development, measured in social indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality, gender equality or literacy, which contradict a simplistic notion of continued failure. Different evaluations of the outcome of development tie into different interpretations of what exactly the concept does – or should – mean. Over time, Western modernization theories have been complemented by alternative concepts such as the basic needs approach, Amartya Sen's view of "development as freedom" or Herman Daly's insistence on "development" as a strictly qualitative notion, to be distinguished from economic growth. In addition, the idea of "sustainable development", and, more recently, Southern concepts such as "Buen Vivir" or "Ubuntu," have also gained traction, each with its own package of contested meanings.

Despite this lack of precision, "development" continues to be widely used, including in categories such as "developed" or "least developed" countries, and for many people, particularly in low-income countries, "development" remains a powerful and seemingly self-evident goal. Apparently, the idea of some form of socio-economic improvement as a goal of public or private actions has resonated with societies in many parts of the world, though not necessarily with identical meanings. Meanwhile, definitions of what constituted "successes" or "failures" are similarly far from clear, and perspectives vary along with changing attitudes in public and in academia as well as with evolving evidence regarding the long-term repercussions of various forms of development.

The Center of the History of Global Development welcome applications from researchers who are taking innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to any aspects of this topic, ideally looking at ways in which the histories of different times and different places intersected. As pivotal sectors in which developmental practices have become effective, projects addressing economic, health and/or environmental aspects and their interactions are particularly welcome.

Fellows can benefit from an international academic environment and from a stimulating setting in one of the most rapidly "developing" cities of the world.

Fellows are expected to share their questions and the results of their work through lectures, both about their specific research project and about topics in their field of expertise (approximately one lecture per month). They are also expected to generally participate in the academic life of the College of Liberal Arts at Shanghai University and to cite Shanghai University in all publications to which their fellowship stay has contributed. Fellowships are open to post-doctoral and senior scholars. Preference is given to projects at an advanced state, whose outcome and publication potential is already becoming clear.

Fellowship applications can be for periods of three or six months, taken between 1 March 2017 and 28 February 2018.

The fellowship includes:

Free accommodation, subsidized meals
A monthly stipend of 7,000 RMB for post-docs and 12,000 for senior scholars.
Office space and secretariat assistance
Applications should include:

A project proposal of no more than 3,000 – 4,000 words, explaining the research question, relevance, work program, and expected outcome of the project
A cv
A list of proposed lectures
The deadline is 1 December 2016. For further information, contact Prof. Iris Borowy at borowyiris@i.shu.edu.cn or Prof. Yong-an Zhang at zhangyongan@shu.edu.cn.

Contact Info:
Prof. Iris Borowy
College of Liberal Arts, Shanghai University
99 Shangda Road, Shanghai 200444
China
Contact Email:
borowyiris@i.shu.edu.cn

Adventures in Aidland

Before picking up David Mosse's "Adventures in Aidland: The Anthropology of Professionals in International Development" (2011), I had read one chapter and had high expectations that it would be an interesting read. I felt the book was torn between two topics that made it less cohesive, and some chapters felt revised to suit a new topic but didn't do either justice in the process. As Mosse notes, many of these chapters originated from a conference panel on "Cosmopolitanism and Development" in 2006, which remained a key theme throughout. At the same time, the book claims to present works wherein "anthropologists write about expertise in the realm of international development" (p. vii). Nonetheless, I do suggest Chapters 3, 7 and 8 for development studies students (and teaching), and Chapter 10 for those interesting in a satirical Alice in Wonderland vision of Aidland (the origin of the book's title).

Chapter 3 is a contribution by Tania Murray Li on "Rendering Society Technical" and in some ways offers a shorter version of her longer works (e.g. The Will to Improve and Land's End) on the topic, making it somewhat more accessible for students. For example, she writes: "Central to government is the practice I call 'rendering technical', a shorthand for what is actually a set of practices concerned with representing 'the domain to be governed as an intelligible field with specifiable limits and particular characteristics'" (p. 57). Further: "Government through community requires that community be rendered technical. It must be 'investigated, mapped, classified, documented, interpreted' (1999: 175)". For those unfamiliar with Li's work, this chapter presents clear examples in a relatively short chapter.

The second recommended portion, Chapter 7, comes from another familiar name on this site: Rosalind Eyben (author of The Making of a Better World and co-editor of The Politics of Evidence). The chapter provides unique insight into donor agency staff experiences – as I mentioned previously Eyben herself made many of the choices being criticized (as also, generally, described by Robert Chambers in 1983). For a world few have lived in, and many wonder about, it is an excellent read. Eyben works to make a minor shift in the donor community within Bolivia to gain more firsthand experience as participant observers.

I also recommend Chapter 8, written by Rajak and Stirrat. It does encounter this two objective problem, resulting in a somewhat lost focus. Nonetheless, it offers some concise and clear summaries of international development and the odd disconnection between international and domestic activity. They describe the field trips development actors make as carefully orchestrated rituals, that development professionals "are of course aware of" and who also play this same ritualistic game for others. On development actors, he explains that even "in their interactions with the 'host community', development professionals tend to be restricted or restrict themselves to certain categories of 'locals'… In general there is relatively little social interaction between development professionals and the host population at the level of friendship" (p. 167-168).

On the cosmopolitan values part, an interesting comment: "Whilst there are some individuals who display an interest in attempts at developing a Buddhist framework for development or who try to develop an Islamic economics, these are few and far between. Furthermore, the flow of funding ensures a certain orthodoxy in the development world, and stepping too far outside the boundaries is to put this funding at risk. The ideas and practices of the development industry can be viewed as parochial in the extreme, involving a rejection of alternatives and an attempt to 'naturalize' and 'universalize' one particular strand of looking at the world" (p. 166).


Logan Cochrane

logan.cochrane@gmail.com

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