Amazon Conservation in the Age of Development: The Limits of Providence

By Ronald A. Foresta | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Nature and the Practice of Development

The vision of the future in the early twentieth century was part bright and part dark. In the West, the maturing industrial revolution and the advance of civilization made life, in H. G. Wells's words, "heavy with the promise of greater things." 1 Beyond the industrialized states were cultures that discouraged invention and economies incapable of productively using capital. The scarcity and stagnation that the classical economists had predicted, and that the West had avoided through science and inventiveness, were their likely fate, and only imperial rule brought a measure of well-being to them. But this dichotomy, like the imperial order it fitted and legitimized, was swept away by the Second World War. Those who would reconstruct the world on the rubble of the old imperialism were determined to create a new order of modern, prosperous states. The promotion of global development became central to what Adler called "the agenda of the Brave New World" that emerged after 1945. 2 Everyone would become heir to Wells's vision of heavy promise.

The instruments of universal progress were built into the institutional framework of the postwar order. 3 The creation of "conditions of economic and social progress" was one of the United Nations' basic goals, and specialized UN agencies--the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the UN Development Programme, the World Health Organization--were set up to carry out the development mandate. North American and then Western European nations established development-promoting agencies to supplement the UN's efforts. Private philanthropic foundations turned their attention to the problems of underdevelopment.

A broad consensus was eventually reached on the basic prescription for national development: the complete restructuring of national

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