Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Treatises of Development: The Context of Developmentalism in Bangladesh

Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Treatises of Development: The Context of Developmentalism in Bangladesh

Article excerpt

This article analyzes the structure of the development discourse that has become prominent since the end of World War II. An understanding of this structure is vital to developing an appreciation of the making of Third World nations as objects of development. The Truman inaugural address provided a basis for the formulation of treatises of development and also enabled the configuration of development's structure. (1) The terms and concepts used in those treatises express a consistent account of the formation of new knowledge, institutions, and disciplines related to development. Elements of the treatises make possible the production of a set of relations within the domain of development, relations that were systematized to coordinate development deployments at various levels, from local to global. It was not these deployments alone, but also their interdependence--the structure of relations among elements, institutions, and practices--that enabled the production of the development project. Three representative treatises are examined here to uncover this structure and the interdependence among elements and practices forming development discourse.

At the global level, the United Nations was the motive force promoting the development project, embodying Western rationality and modernity, among Third World nations. To this end, it produced some incisive reports, drawing upon what it saw as underdevelopment and recommending strategies for development. (2) Of these reports, Measures for the Economic Development of Underdeveloped Countries was the most prominent. (3) At the regional level, the Commonwealth nations formed a consultative committee, which in 1950 produced The Colombo Plan (CP), the well-known document for South and Southeast Asian nations. At the local level, the most renowned plan for development was the Agricultural Development Plan of Pakistan, (4) prepared by the Food and Agricultural Commission (FAC). The FAC comprised Pakistani "experts" as well as development specialists from international agencies, such as the World Bank, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, and the U.S. International Cooperation Administration--predecessor to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The three reports are examined here to reveal the broad structure of the discourse that constructed development and underdevelopment. These treatises enabled various organizations to deploy consistent strategies to bring Third World populations as subjects under the broad-ranging disciplinary power of development. A survey of these treatises is presented below to sketch the set of relations and their systematization, the UN report being examined first.

The UN Treatise: Measures for the Economic Development of Underdeveloped Countries

The UN treatise Measures for the Economic Development of Underdeveloped Countries was produced by a group of experts appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in May 1951. Until the publication of this report, Harry Truman's sermon on development was the "standard" in the field. Truman claimed:

   More than half the people of the world are living in conditions
   approaching misery. Their food is inadequate. They are victims of
   disease. Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. Their poverty
   is a handicap and a threat both to them and to more prosperous areas.
   For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and
   the skill to relieve the suffering of these people. The United States
   is pre-eminent among nations in the development of industrial and
   scientific techniques.... I believe that we should make available to
   peace-loving peoples the benefits of our store of technical knowledge
   in order to help them realize their aspirations for better life. (5)

Under Resolution 290 (XI), the UN Economic and Social Council appointed a five-expert team to prepare a development plan. (6) This was the first concrete step to turn Truman's vision for development into an explicit policy. …

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