Alternatives to what?: From “The Divide” towards the “Pluriverse”

by Julia Schöneberg

Postdevelopment proponents offer the most radical critique of past and present development policy and cooperation: It is failed. Rather than thinking about alternative development approaches, reforms and refinements, they call for a full abandonment of “development” as a discourse, as a vision and as a practice. Proponents like Escobar, Esteva, Sachs and many others have been challenged as merely offering critique, but no construction. Indeed, the vision for alternatives to development remains blurry. Almost 25 years ago, Escobar proclaimed that truly just alternatives can only source from the grassroots, the local, the communities. This may be right to some extent, yet realising that grassroot alternatives are not existing in a vacuum, but in a system of globalised, neoliberal capitalism makes it hard to imagine how these alternatives can claim their just and legitimate spaces.

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It’s all about “Post-” and “De-“: Some (Dis-)entanglements of Post- and Decolonialism and Postdevelopment

by Julia Schöneberg

Starting to read about critical perspectives towards “development” you will soon encounter post- and decolonial literature and arguments, popping up regularly as catchwords. Both are not homogenous streams of thought, but rather certain standpoints from which “development”, capitalism, Eurocentrism, Anthropocentrism and the ongoing legacies of colonialism are critiqued and contested.

Then, you may notice that likewise postdevelopment (PD) comes with a “post-“ prefix. How to make sense of all the “post” and “de”? How do they all connect?

You’re confused? Fret not and look no further, here’s a zine for you!

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CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS: Views on the EU as a development actor in conversation with postdevelopment

We are calling on scholars of EU Studies, Development Studies, International Relations and related fields.

We would like to invite you to submit your abstracts for our panel session on “Views on the EU as a development actor in conversation with postdevelopment”, which will take place at the upcoming EADI ISS 2020 Conference in The Hague (29 June – 2 July 2020): https://www.eadi.org/gc/2020/

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Development: a failed project

Read also in SPANISH

It’s time to abandon development and think about postdevelopment instead.

by Julia Schöneberg

“They talk to me about progress, about ‘achievements,’ diseases cured, improved standards of living. I am talking about societies drained of their essence, cultures trampled underfoot, institutions undermined, lands confiscated, religions smashed, magnificent artistic creations destroyed, extraordinary possibilities wiped out. They throw facts at my head, statistics, mileages of roads, canals, and railroad tracks. […] I am talking about natural economies that have been disrupted – harmonious and viable economies adapted to the indigenous population – about food crops destroyed, malnutrition permanently introduced, agricultural development oriented solely toward the benefit of the metropolitan countries, about the looting of products, the looting of raw materials.”

– Aime Césaire (1950): ‘Discourse on Colonialism’

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Undeveloping the North

by Aram Ziai

The concept of ‘Undeveloping the North’ (‘Abwicklung des Nordens’) opposes both the discourse of ‘development’ in general (and its imperative of ‘developing the South’) and the discourse of ‘sustainable development’ as its accompanying ecological modernization. It sees relations of power in global capitalism and its drive for accumulation as the cause of poverty in the South and ecological degradation worldwide. Therefore, it focuses on struggling against these relations of power and this economic system. The concept (Spehr 1996: 209-236, Hüttner 1997, Bernhard et al. 1997) arose from a critique of sustainable development, which was seen as an ecological modernization of corporate capitalism reproducing ideas of Western superiority, patriarchal faith in science and technology, and unjustified trust in planning and ‘development’ (Hüttner 1997: 141).

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Post-Development: Decolonial Alternatives to Development

This is the introductory note of the conference on ‘Decolonial Alternatives to Development’ that is organised at University of Kassel, Germany, 10 – 11 September. Members of the Convivial Thinking Collective are attending the conference and will report. 

Since the 1990s, the Post‐Development critique has sparked debate in development theory and policy. It rejected the entire paradigm of ‘development’ – that there are ‘developed’ and ‘less developed’ countries, thus a universal scale, and that the former can be found in the industrialised West.

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Elephants in the ‘development’ room – a response to Julia Schöneberg and Henning Melber

by Su-ming Khoo

This blog post responds to earlier posts by Julia Schöneberg and Julia Schöneberg and Henning Melber registering continuing disenchantment with ‘development’, concern with a lack of consensus and common definition, and calling for its abolition. Julia’s first blog argued that we should not become the unwitting bearers of a vision of development that we disagree with, and that serves the interests of the most privileged. Three decades after it first emerged, ‘postdevelopment’ is enjoying a moment of renewal. ‘Development’ disavowal is accompanied by proposals, for example Orbie and Delputte recently called for a halt to EU aid and development cooperation and abolition of the EU Development programme, and its eventual replacement with a ‘Post-development Commissioner’ .

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Problems of development and “development” as a problem

by Henning Melber and Julia Schöneberg

Right-wing populism remains on the rise, unleashing the brute force of predator capitalism under authoritarian regimes. The temporary vision of promoting social welfare states as a form of good governance has been replaced by new ideologies bordering to a revival of Social Darwinism. White supremacists, populists and nationalists (re-)enter political commanding heights, basing their rule on exclusion and racism. Those concerned about inequality and all forms of discrimination, advocating the rights of the marginalised and disadvantaged, are ridiculed, harassed and increasingly victims of direct, structural and cultural violence. Their struggles for human rights, justice and dignity face an uphill battle. Political repression is mounting. The unsustainable exploitation of the world’s limited resources as integral part of a growth paradigm is once again accelerated.

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Challenges to EU Development Policy: Paradigm Lost or Stretched?

by Sarah Delputte and Jan Orbie

European Union (EU) development policy seems plagued by many challenges from within and outside. We argue that underlying these challenges lay more fundamental problems with the Eurocentric, modernist and colonial paradigm of EU development policy. We witness some cracks in the pillars of the current paradigm, namely in the form of policy failures, epistemic changes, and power shifts. However, this seems unlikely to entail radical paradigm change. Instead of moving in the direction of post-development, we merely observe experimental approaches stretching the prevailing paradigm.

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CALL FOR PAPERS AND CONTRIBUTIONS: Post-Development: Decolonial Alternatives to Development

Since the 1990s, the Post‐Development critique has sparked debate in development theory and policy. It rejected the entire paradigm of ‘development’ – that there are ‘developed’ and ‘less developed’ countries, thus a universal scale, and that the former can be found in the industrialised West. It furthermore criticised the paradigm’s colonial continuities – a Eurocentric perception of difference as backwardness, legitimising interventions by claiming to ‘develop the underdeveloped’ instead of ‘civilising the uncivilised’, and allowing for the preservation of a colonial division of labour. In the light of these fundamental points of disagreement, Post‐Development perspectives declared ‘development’ as beyond reform. Instead of alternative development, they argued, it was necessary to look for alternatives to development. These were to be found in concepts and practices beyond those Western models (to be more precise: those that were hegemonic in the West) which were to be universalized through ‘development’. Concepts and practices arising out of disillusionment with the false promises of ‘development’, inspired by non‐Western cultural traditions were presented aspotentially bringing forth a Post‐ Development era.

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