The Anthropology of Globalization: Cultural Anthropology Enters the 21st Century

By Ted C. Lewellen | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Development, Devolution, and Discourse

The term [“development”] is so imprecise and vulgar that it should be stricken from any proper lexicon of technical terms.

David Apter 1

Not long ago, development occupied that privileged place in the lexicon of the social sciences presently held by globalization. As is the case with the present usurper, there was little agreement about what development meant. There were passionate assertions that it would save mankind and equally passionate accusations that it was a postcolonial conspiracy to maintain Western hegemony over the Third World. Some believed that development would bring about equality between peoples and nations, while others held that it was increasing inequality. Macroeconomic statistics proved that development improved the lot of the masses, and microeconomic statistics proved that it impoverished the masses. Some scholars contended that it would raise Third World women out of poverty, and others asserted that it condemned them to even greater poverty. The claims and counterclaims for and against development were so similar to those now being applied to globalization that one might well assume that one concept has simply replaced an earlier one. Indeed, some economists, especially those who see free-market forces as the primary engine of world betterment, seem to assume that globalization is just development writ large. This is unfortunate: Globalization and development are very different concepts.

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