DSA2016: Politics in Development
- Jorge Enrique Forero (International Center for Development and Decent Work - University of Kassel) email
This panel seeks to explore the possibilities of using concepts from critical theory to understand the political dimensions of development policy, with particular emphasis on the anti-neoliberal and anti-developmentalist proposals that have emerged as a response to neoliberalism.
The re-introduction of critical theory to the field of international relations by Cox in the middle of the 1980s, opened the door for an analysis of contemporary capitalist dynamics through concepts like dominance, struggle and hegemony. Since then, many works have described the rise and consolidation of neoliberalism using the tools provided by Gramsci and drawing elements from Marxism, dependency theory and the regulation school.
Indeed, these critical perspectives can be useful for harnessing a moment in global capitalism in which the economic and political power of financial capital and large corporations has become a major feature in the configuration of the so-called "world order". The leading role of financial institutions in the approval and vetoing of state decisions configures a field where such theories can perform at their best.
This is not the case when it comes to studying the counteroffensive to neoliberalism through popular struggles. With the crisis of organized labor, as well that of the traditional discourse and strategies of the left, anti-neoliberal and anti-developmentalist struggles and defiance seem difficult to grasp through conventional categories of classical critical theory.
Is it possible to use critical theory to study the attempts to move towards a post-neoliberal and post-developmental policy? Can the category of hegemony be useful in this task, within the post-structuralist stream as well as within the Neo-Gramscian one? Is the concept of social classes still useful in these discussions? These are some questions this panel seeks to address.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
"Postneoliberal governments" in Latin America and Buen Vivir ("Good Living"): Tensions within a counterhegemonic process
Debating with some insights of the so-called neo-Gramscian school, we apply the analysis of relations of forces as a key mechanism for understanding Latin American political dynamics behind the "XXI Century' socialism".
Reducing the political centrality of organized labor, the neoliberal stage of capitalism also generated an increase in political struggles in peripheral societies. In fact, the genealogy of the "alter-globalization movement" -the first articulated manifestation of antineoliberal struggle- led directly to the insurrection of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation -EZLN- in Mexico.
A major feature of antineoliberal resistance has been a a proliferation of subjects, struggles and claims, that in their most radical versions define themselves as "anticapitalist". This context created a fertile field in Latin America for leftist governments that tried to expand popular participation and new visions of development in defiance of neoliberal hegemony.
The governments of XXI Century Socialism -in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela- nationalized their main natural resources and redirected extractive rents to strength their State apparatus, providing health, education and focalized subsides to specific sectors of the population. On the other hand, they have sustained the predominance of the capitalist mode of production, maintaining an economic structure based on the production of commodities for the world market, generating social and ecological conflicts, and stirring radical opposition from the main social movements of their own countries.
In this paper, we offer some insights for understanding the class struggle behind these political processes, incorporating the analysis of relations of force as a major mechanism for understanding Latin American political dynamics during the transition to the XXI Century.
Convergences between the Indigenous cosmovision of Sumak Kawsay in Ecuador and the degrowth narratives
This paper investigates the relevant literature based on critical theories in the field of anti-neoliberal and anti-developmentalist proposals that have emerged as a response to neoliberalism, such as the critical theory of degrowth and the indigenous cosmovision of Sumak Kawsay.
Debates on post-development, such as the Sumak Kawsay approach in the Constitution of Ecuador, translated as "Buen Vivir", and in the other hand the degrowth theory of Latouche (2006), which affirms that growth it in an undesirable and unsustainable concept, are used to be treated as converging paradigms in terms of representation of similar post-hegemonic alternatives (Unceta Satrústegui, 2013).
The emergence of these critical theories, in opposition to a neoliberalism and hegemonic development discourse, represents at first, an epistemological rupture in terms of emergence of a process to a new collective paradigm.
In this sense, the recent Ecuadoran Constitution of 2008, it is considered a fundamental attempt to the establishment of an ethical coexistence and harmony between the nature and the human being - in sense of a new juridical and formal draw regulation.
However, in practice, the power of economic and political extractives interests, maintains a contradictory scenario against the indigenous and the environmental rights during the application and implementation of the directives of a plurinational and intercultural State of Ecuador (Gudynas, 2009; Dávalos, 2013).
Considering this paradoxical context, this paper embrace a philosophical debate based on an ontological social semantic analyses, in terms of reconstruction of a new existentialism and community ecologic subjectivity in order to overcome the hegemonic neoliberal paradigm and legitimate the post hegemonic epistemological rupture.
Creating dissensus in a Post-Political era: The case of "Buen Vivir" in the Andes of Peru
If Buen Vivir is to become a real alternative to development it is essential to re-politicise processes of participation. Thus, the use of radical democracy and critical consciousness result useful to that purpose.
"When complex problems such as the ones faced by development interventions are analysed from a technocratic perspective separately from its historical/spatial context the causes of the problem pass unchallenged (Freire, 2005). The ways which social/cultural/economic influences produce and reproduce specific mental models interfere on the way in which politicians, development professionals and local residents problematize social issues (World Bank, 2015). Thus, hindering the potential for subverting social inequalities and reducing the chances for social transformation aimed by radical social movements. In order to revert this problem re-politicise forms of participation is fundamental. To that end a good understanding of how power (specifically invisible forms of power) operates is fundamental to challenge hegemonic discourse of coloniality (Gaventa, 2006, Quijano, 2000).
By focusing on the case of "Buen Vivir" (BV) as a post-development paradigm in the Andes of Peru this paper will look at the potential spaces for bringing back politics by using the concept of dissensus (Rancière, 2011). I will aim to do so by drawing on concepts such as agonistic pluralism and critical consciousness reviewing critically the concept of participation as the operationalisation of the embedded dissensus action of BV (Mouffe, 2002, Laclau, 2002, Freire, 1971). Thus, this paper argues that in order to operationalise BV in a meaningful way it should aim to rise critical thinking by politicising/problematizing the natural, cultural and historical reality in which local actors of development are immersed.
Dams & Discourse Theory
This paper will assert the importance of Discourse Theory in understanding the hegemonic struggles that surround the meaning of mega-dams. Within the case of Brazil, it will do so by exploring how sustainable development has been articulated as hegemonic tool to fragment the opposition.
As Karen Bakker (2000) has stated, the management of water resources has become a discursive practice - with competing narratives working to define the resource. The result is that dams, from the Three Gorges of China to the Aswan of Egypt, have become constructed by language, as well as concrete. The meanings and representations of dams often have histories that are located in wider understandings of power - but, these histories are never fixed. Instead, they are always open to reinvention and transformation by the actors that perceive it. The result is often the contestation over the meaning of the infrastructure and the consequences of its construction.
This paper will assert that these contested meanings of dams opens up the study of dams to the influence of Ernesto Laclau's and Chantal Mouffe's Discourse Analytic framework. It will do so by exploring how recent Brazilian governments have appropriated narratives of Sustainable Development as a means to legitimise the construction of mega-dams in the Amazon region. A rearticulation of existing storylines has occurred - and the construction of dams and notions of sustainable development have been joined.
These appeals to sustainability often serve as a hegemonic tool to isolate opposition networks, fragment alliances, and further legitimate construction. As a result, this paper will assert that this articulation has occurred within a struggle over the meaning of dams, and that infrastructure cannot be separated from the discourse that generates meaning.
Smoke and Mirrors: Postdevelopment as a teaching tool
I reflect on the problems of using post development as a tool to teach international students most from the global south. The paper sets out the difficulty of unsettling apparent truths of the development project in teaching processes.
'one of the tricks that western modernity plays on intellectuals is to allow them to produce revolutionary ideas in reactionary institutions.'Boaventura De Sousa Santos (2014:3)
This quote from De Sousa Santos played a trick on me as I boldly attempted in 2015/6 to use post development as a tool to engage students in critical reflections on development. One of their assignments was to create an ISS Development Dictionary emulating the Sachs's collection. The results were mixed - wonderful digital collations of concepts, ideas, critiques, but as many said, they felt their world had been turned upside down. In my paper I reflect on the problems of using post development as a tool to teach international students most from the global south. My experiment in asking students to engage in their own 'unmaking of development' recorded in their evaluations, a series of interviews, and my own and other colleagues reflections sets out the difficulty of unsettling apparent truths of the development project even in progressive institutes as the ISS which claims to be at the interface of activism and academe.
Is there space for bottom-up approaches in education within development policies?
This paper discusses the case of a local teacher education initiative in Mexico. Based on critical theory teachers implemented this initiative supported by the local communities and despite state curricula.
This paper presents the case of the teachers' Program to Transform the Education in Oaxaca (PTEO). Using critical theory, teachers developed their own context-based education initiative. While there is an ongoing conflict between the teacher unions and the state, teachers have managed to bypass both actors and implement their own initiatives by engaging with the local communities. Using empirical evidence form a case study, this paper discusses the value and relevance of critical education approaches and its implications for development within the local and national context vis-à-vis the political/power struggles existing in the Mexican education system
A critical reexamination of post-conflict educational theory: a South African case study
This paper carefully analyzes the implementation of post-conflict educational theory in South Africa. By leveling a Foucauldian critique of neoliberal governmentality, this paper aims to better understand the maintenance of historical inequality in post-conflict South Africa.
In South Africa, neoliberal economic policies occupied the discourse on education policy development, attempting to embed a kind of rationality in the educational system that promoted imperatives of global and local economic competition. By analyzing education policy development through a Foucauldian critique of governmentality in differentiated forms of neoliberalism, (post-) colonialism, and transnationalism, persistent power relations and their effect on maintaining historically prevalent social divides in society and education are rendered visible. Using these contextualized forms of governmentality, this paper explores post-conflict theory in the context of South Africa with special regards to education policy. Thereby critiquing post-conflict educational theory based on its arguably destructive Western, neoliberal approach to development. (Examples include policies that promote an outcome-based system and human capital theory, which are problematic under neoliberal states constituted by social inequalities.)
The psychologization of the development intervention: The 2015 World Development Report 'Mind, Society and Behavior'.
I argue that the behavioural turn in development policy aims for a certain kind of subjectivity which not only problematizes non-Western subjectivities, but also justifies the hegemonic neoliberal project of economization and improvement within development interventions.
The aim of this paper is to examine the use of psychological and behavioural knowledge in development policy and practise by specifically examining the technological expertise deployed in the World Bank's 2015 WDR 'Mind, Society and Behavior'. To do this, I will firstly examine the main proposition put forth in the WDR highlighting the behavioural change framework and policy techniques promoted. Secondly, I review the shifts in development policy through a governmentality perspective offering a critical perspective in how we can understand the recent psychological and behavioural focus in development policy. Thirdly, I will then go on to analyse the behavioural techniques promoted within WDR; examining how a certain kind of subjectivity is being aimed for which not only homogenises and problematizes non-Western knowledge systems, subjectivities and agency, but also justifies the hegemonic neoliberal project of economization and improvement within development interventions. I conclude by urging development scholars to critically engage with the psychologization and behaviouralization of development interventions, especially as the neoliberal project advances.
"Dangerous Bodies": Securitisation, Containment and Everyday Resistance in Sierra Leone
The paper discusses the implications of dominant development discourses that depict poverty as a threat to security. Using the case study of Sierra Leone's recent crises, it looks at the logic of securitization and its contestation by those at its receiving end.
In the past two decades Sierra Leone has experienced two significant shocks to its political and social fabric: a ten year civil war and an unprecedented Ebola epidemic. Sierra Leone has become emblematic of the increasing depiction of underdevelopment as a security concern. In the aftermath of the civil war, employment for socio-economically excluded youth came to be seen as imperative to quell a perceived threat that they posed to peace, following a conflict that saw youths' prominence in all combating factions. Ten years later, the same demographic became the target of a militarized Ebola response, whose heavy-handed surveillance was a permanent feature in poor communities where thousands of Ebola cases were recorded. The bodies of poor youth have thus been imprinted with the potential of danger at each stage of the country's crisis cycle and as such development strategies have explicitly focused on their containment. This paper analyses the emergence and implications of such discourses—showing how through the use of notions of "security", and "containment" a narrative is weaved around what an "ideal" citizen looks like in consonance with neoliberal visions of development. The paper then explores how those at the receiving ends of these discourses, whose bodies are posited to be "dangerous" and their modes of social political existence non-normative, resist these narratives both discursively and physically. Based on long-term ethnographic work in Sierra Leone, the paper focuses on three mechanisms used by marginal youth: rumours and cynicism; appropriation of hegemonic discourses; and physical confrontations.
Regional identity after the Arab Spring: re-sticking the Moroccan island to the African continent?
Despite the limited extent and erratic performance of the Arab Spring in Morocco, it entailed a discursive shift reshaping regional identity from below and away from the neoliberal assumptions on regional integration that had isolated Morocco from its Southern neighbors since its independence.
The Moroccan path of international integration since its independence can be understood in terms of a passive revolution whereby its resilient power structure achieved international legitimacy by adapting the economic structure to neoliberal patterns. This trend distanced Morocco from its Maghreb and African neighbours, rather engaged in the Third World pro-socialist movements arising throughout the continent. Co-opted by the European coercive funding and regionalist ideology, the Moroccan ruling class took advantage of the decolonization process to set an open economy based on agricultural exports and tourism from which also the former French and Spanish settlers benefit. However, while North-South patterns prevail in terms of formal regionalism, the uprisings of 2011 reinforced a pervasive discourse on regional identity that overcomes the neoliberal assumptions on regional integration. Despite being a fragmentary movement with contrasting claims and scant continuity in Morocco, it set a discursive turning point that could resemble fragmentary subaltern groups and challenge the boundaries of the post-colonial state. To this regard, the category of subalternity becomes an essential asset not only in ontological terms —since it is key to characterize the structure—, but also for its potential role in shaping a post-colonial and counter-hegemonic regionalism whose features would be defined from within and from below.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.