Rethinking Development Geographies

Rethinking Development Geographies

Rethinking Development Geographies

Rethinking Development Geographies


Development as a concept is notoriously imprecise, vague and presumptuous. Struggles over the meaning of this fiercely contested term have had profound implications on the destinies of people and places across the globe. Rethinking Development Geographies offers a stimulating and critical introduction to the study of geography and development. In doing so, it sets out to explore the spatiality of development thinking and practices.The book highlights the geopolitical nature of development and its origins in Empire and the Cold War. It also reflects critically on the historical engagement of geographers with 'the Tropics', the 'Third World' and the 'South'. The dominant economic and political philosophies that shape the policies and perspectives of major institutions are discussed. The interconnections between globalization and development are highlighted through an examination of local, national and transnational resistance to various forms of development.The text provides an accessible introduction to the complex and confusing world of contemporary global development. Informative diagrams, cartoons and case studies are used throughout. While exploring global geographies of economic and political change Rethinking Development Geographiesis also grounded in a concern with people and places, the 'view from below', the views of women and the view from the 'South'.


[D]evelopment is a continuous intellectual project as well as an ongoing material process.

(Apter, 1987:7)

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, a number of high-profile events and processes have illustrated that the challenges of global 'development' are becoming an increasingly important part of international relations and world politics. After the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001, many people were quick to point out that poverty and inequality between nations was becoming the most important issue in building world peace and international political stability. In the context of the global war on terrorism that has followed 9/11 and the international concern to rebuild and reconstruct Afghanistan and Iraq, issues of poverty and development have again taken centre-stage. Furthermore, in the spring of 2002 at a United Nations (UN) meeting in Monterrey, Mexico, world leaders made many promises to deliver more aid and assistance to poor countries and to open their markets to trade with the 'lesser developed world'. At the time of writing, the World Summit on sustainable development is meeting in Johannesburg (South Africa) to discuss current trends in global production and consumption and the social and environmental strains that threaten to 'derail development efforts and erode living standards' (Wolf-ensohn, 2002:21). What is particularly interesting about these and similar world gatherings is that they bring together nations and peoples with often vastly different and incredibly varied levels of social and economic resources for 'development' to discuss common approaches and to devise collective solutions. The United States and Uganda, for example, are characterised by marked differences in living standards, with very different cultures and histories as well as often divergent perspectives on how to change the world economy and how to devise policies that improve economic growth opportunities for all peoples. In seeking to understand these kinds of differences between the 'rich' and 'poor' nations of the world, geography and geographical analysis have a particularly important role to play.

One of the major difficulties in finding common approaches, policies and solutions to these challenges is that the idea of 'development' is difficult to define, since the term has a whole variety of meanings in different times and places. In Malaysia, for example, debates about the nature of development and its importance to national 'progress' and social change have taken on a very different complexion when compared to a country such as South Africa or Sri Lanka. Even within such countries, the meanings and definitions of 'development' vary substantially across national territory and between different social groups or are, in a way, 'place-specific'. As if to complicate our study of 'development' and its geographies even further, it might be said that the term actually has no clear and unequivocal meaning and is in a sense truly the stuff of myth, mystique and mirage. Little consensus exists around the meaning of this heavily contested term yet most if not all leaders of the world's many nation-states and international organisations claim to be pursuing this objective in some way. This book seeks to show that, by contrast, the strength of the term comes directly from its power to seduce, to please, to fascinate, to set dreaming, but also from its power to deceive and to turn away from the truth (Rist, 1997:1). Development is nearly always seen as something

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