The Dark Side of Development

As a American Christian I grew up hearing the myth that the world needed America to make the world a better place (i.e. more like America). I think this quote from the late South African theologian David Bosch illustrates well how the West’s imperialistic approach to development has fundamentally failed to help the majority world.

“For the West, development meant modernization. The entire project was, however, based on several flawed assumptions: it supposed that what was good for the West would be good for the Third World also (in this respect, then, it was culturally insensitive); it operated on the Enlightenment presupposition of the absolute distinction between the human subject and the material object and believed that all the Third World stood in need of was technological expertise; it assumed one-way traffic without any reciprocity- development aid ans skills moved from Western “donors” to Third-World “recipients” who had often not even been consulted; and it operated on the assumption that nothing in the rich North needed to change. By and large the project miscarried disastrously. A small elite benefited; the majority of the population found themselves in an even more desperate plight. The rich got richer, the poor poorer… Before World War II, a Brazilian could buy a Ford car for five sacks of coffee, in 1968 206 sacks were needed. In spite of  (because of?) billions of dollars of development aid, the socio-economic situation in many Third-World countries was getting more desperate by the day. It was not recognized that poverty was not just the result of ignorance, lack of skills, or moral and cultural factors, but rather that it had to do with global structural relationships. “


About mjbutterworth

Coffee. Books. Bicycles.
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2 Responses to The Dark Side of Development

  1. badgley says:

    I agree that much aid is worse than ineffectual and that western society incorrectly saw itself as a conclusion. I would point out though that “the rich got richer, the poor poorer… Before World War II, a Brazilian could buy a Ford car for five sacks of coffee, in 1968 206 sacks were needed,” doesn’t help his argument. Now, I haven’t studied international trade flows post-WWII but I would guess that this disparity between Brazilian purchase power parity pre- and post-war has more to do with availability of coffee and coffee’s value compared to the spectrum of goods available. With WWII came an re-industrial revolution and many more products became available – things like substitute goods – which would drive down the price (relative price) of coffee.

    • Yeah I’m with you Badge on the coffee thing. I almost took it out actually, cuz I also didn’t think it helped his argument. I guess we’ll forgive him for being a theologian that overstepped his area of expertise.

      Speaking of coffee, C grade coffee (the type they make gross Maxwell House and instant with) tripled in price last year, so maybe those coffee farmers can get their foreign cars again.

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