úterý 26. července 2011
pondělí 25. července 2011
The interview was conducted in June 2011.
čtvrtek 21. července 2011
First, the planet runs towards its ecological limits and the reproduction of the industrial (or imperial) mode of living is impossible.
What does this exactly mean? Implicit are a whole bunch of discredited Malthusian assumptions about what constitutes natural resources (was oil a natural resource 200 years ago? What about silicon for PC chips? What will the next great invention need? We don't know -- it might run on methane from cow farts and eliminate the need for solar power!), the assumption that we have reached limits on agricultural yields, the idea that we are not already moving away from an industrial, imperial (!) economy solely by greater efficiencies in production, and even the assumption that there is a relationship between "ecological limits" and the "imperialist" way, particularly if imperial (i.e. Western) countries cease to have children.
Secondly, with the end of the Cold War, ‘development’ lost its political impetus. As we may see today the East-West confrontation has disappeared, but ‘development’ lost nothing of its attraction.
What I think the author means here is that "development" as "bribing Third-World countries to be on the side of either the West or the East" is over; on this, I generally concur, though I think we could make an argument for China's version of development assistance creating new contours in the relationship between the developed and the developing world (and where China itself sits on the development spectrum). In other words, development aid lost its political impetus (for the West), but certainly not for the ones who want to develop. If anything, the countries that want to "develop" simply want to "be more like the West." Ultimately, only a very few nations have chosen to continue to "develop" the way the losers of the Cold War did. Plenty of nations and cultures want a life for their children of less hardship, less hunger, more opportunities. That the West seems to have found a key to solving some of those problems is rather attractive.
I feel like I must be mistaken about my interpretation, because while certain aspects of development aid have certainly been reduced, other aspects, such as malaria prevention, have continued to rise even after the Cold War. Indeed, one of the supposed "Peace Dividends" was that the West could finally get around to spending all that money that we had planned to spend on guns 'n' rockets and instead could spend it on clean water wells and environmentally and culturally sensitive toilets. It seems to me that the end of the Cold War actually increased the discourse on "development" insofar as foreign policy people in the West looked for a new raison d'etre. Furthermore, if we look at US policy at least, there is huge pressure to link development aid to advances in the recipient country's transparency and democratization. Looking at it from the perspective of developed nations also seems to reinforce this idea; as Profant himself points out, "It is the South today that is the staunchest defender of development." So I'm not sure the "political impetus" went away, and it seems that China's rise will add a new dimension to this.
Thirdly, the ever growing gap between the rich and poor defined in terms of monetary income makes the concept seem less persuasive. One look at the Millennium Development Goals shows how ‘development’ switched from modernization to poverty reduction. The neoliberal economic panacea ruling the world at least since the beginning of the 1980s remains nonetheless.
The first part of the third point is is a frustrating and never-ending complaint from development people. There are a couple technical problems with this, and a philosophical problem as well. First off, there is a widening between the extremely poor from various nations, when we consider them as a composite of individuals, and everybody else. While there may be inequality between nations of the North (such as Chile, Australia, and New Zealand) and nations of the South, there is also far greater inequality within the populations of the individual nations of the South. But this is due to the burgeoning, staggering growth of what hopefully will become a "middle class" in places like China, Brazil, and India. This is a huge success -- development has made a LOT of people live longer, healthier lives. True, not all of them. In other words, we are starting to see nations whose entire populations were mired in poverty start to build up enough wealth and infrastructure to actually, well, get rich. Great for them! And great for their nations! Those are the people who will provide jobs and investment down the road. But making the perfect the enemy of the good has often been a far greater hindrance to long-term development; a perfectly "equal" development pattern looks an awful lot like Five-Year Plans.
Another technical problem is that of the role of technology. While it is definitely true that a digital divide exists as well, innovations at the local level, such as innovative applications for cell phones in places where there were never any land lines in the first place, have enabled developing nations to skip what was previously assumed to be a necessary step in the communications infrastructure -- the laying of phone lines. Does this represent an "inequality" vis-a-vis the West, or is it more akin to comparing it to people who continue to collect cassette tapes or vinyl LPs? Obviously, however, this all assumes that people want longer and healthier lives, which is the topic of the fourth point.
As for the sinister relationship between "modernization" transforming into "poverty reduction," I'm not absolutely convinced that the terminology means anything different in practice, but let's consider that it does. It seems to me that "modernization" (presumably of infrastructure, with advancing technology for production inputs and labor specialization, and modern values such as religious tolerance, etc.) is a far more sweeping idea of development than "poverty reduction." If anything, "poverty reduction" seems to be more open to alternative forms of development than modernization.
Next, the problem with the last part of this point is that liberal economic panaceae have been around since the revocation of the Corn Laws. The reason they are panaceae is that they seem to work time and time again. Our author is wrong to date them so recently.
Finally, there is the philosophical problem of emphasizing relative poverty over absolute poverty. This borders on the absurd, when you think about some African village getting a television for the first time. For the first time, they are seeing wealth -- fabulous, unbelievable wealth -- beamed into their village from expensive satellites launched by rich nations, and they see soccer games and beautiful stadiums and alluring women from the telenovelas wearing exotic clothes.... and they forget that they finally have a television and their hearts immediately fill with envy. In that case, it's better to take the TV away and keep them ignorant of their absolute poverty, right? Should we wait to produce any product until we are certain everyone can have it? And what technology should we reject as "inauthentic" or destructive of our culture? Karaoke? Döner?
Fourthly, the single ‘development’ track indeed seems to be obsolete in the postmodern age of cultural relativism.
On this last topic, I am in total agreement with Profant (and Sachs) in that it is a critical topic for development both in its practical and philosophical senses, and in, thus in some ways I actually tend to agree. The single track of development does seem to be obsolete, especially if we consider the Zapatistas agents of progress. But why, if we are good cultural relativists, should we worry merely about the adjective "single?" Why should we bother with development at all? If we are doing what we want as a culture (however defined), why should we care about helping those other cultures "develop" one way or another? Wouldn't it be true that no matter what we do (or what they do themselves!), something organic will be destroyed? And if that's the case, what's wrong with being an imperialist in the first place?
This is an odious progression of questioning, which the authors definitely try to grapple with. But it raises an important point. Any interaction between, and indeed within, cultures is to a certain extent voluntary. It's true that the decision for funding some project for a clean well or something is often made far away from the well. But what obligation does the recipient culture have to accept the new well? After all, their culture survived without it before.
Conversely, why should we bother to try to develop within our our cultures? And what should we bother to conserve? It's clear that many of these cultures are influencing the West as well, through immigration, trade, and even media -- the stunning success of Al-Jazeera is evidence of this. So I think there is the possibility that we live in an age of cultural relativism, but I'm not so convinced the rest of the world is as relativistic about their cultures as we are about ours.
středa 20. července 2011
Poznámka: Sice se jedná o Čínu od A do Z, ale na všechna písmena se mi něco vymyslet nepodařilo;)
A - Angličtina - S tou v Číně stále moc nepochodíte. Trochu více štěstí můžete mít v Pekingu a Šanghaji, nicméně ani tam to není bůh ví co. Vaše komunikace se omezuje na šermování rukama nohama mnohem častěji než kdekoliv jinde. Čínský přízvuk v angličtině je navíc dost strašný a často máte problém i v komunikaci s lidmi, kteří něco málo angličtiny umí.
B - Bohatství - Čína v poslední době prodělává velmi rychlou transformaci, což je patrné na každém kroku. Síla trhu s více než miliardou lidí bude v budoucnu obrovská, zvláště v kombinaci s tím, jak se mladí Číňané zamilovávají do konzumního zůsobu života. Na druhou stranu si nelze nevšimnout toho, že se v čínské společnosti projevují rozevírající se nůžky mezi bohatými a chudými...
C - Cizinci - Jako bílý cizinec jste v Číně svého druhu turistická atrakce. Lidi se s vámi chtějí neustále fotit, všichni na vás pokřikují "Hello", i když je to jediné slovo, které anglicky umí a každý se vám snaží pomoci, i když nerozumí ani slovo;)
D - Doprava - Jedním slovem děs. Zákon, který neumožňuje cizincům půjčit si v Čině auto, je v podstatě chrání, jelikož v chaosu, který na čínských silnicích panuje, by dlouho nepřežili. Číňané jsou ti nejhorší a nejnedisciplinovanější řidiči, co jsem zatím doposud viděl (a to jsem viděl hodně). Na druhou stranu i řidiči nejlepší, jelikož za tři týdny jsem i neviděl jedinou bouračku. Doprava ve velkých městech má náběh na katastrofu s hodinovými zácpami.
E - Ekologie - Jakkoliv se z médií hrnou zprávy o tom, že čínské žívotní prostředí je na tom špatně, z pozice Evropana si to dokážete představit jen těžko. Ve velkých městech je až nepžedstavitelný smog, továrny, kolem kterých pojedete, chrlí do ovzduší tuny bordelu (jinak se to říct nedá), na který jen nevěřícně zíráte. Životní prostředí bude pro Čínu brzy velkou výzvou, nebo jí spíše už je.
F - Friendly - Číňani jsou velmi přátelští a snaží se vám neustále s něčím pomoct, což často vede k zábavným situacím, kdy kolem vás stojí hlouček Číňanů snažící se vám ukázat třeba cestu a každý z nich ukazuje úplně jiným směrem. Navíc nikomu nerozumíte tradičně ani slovo;)
H - Hlučnost - Čiňané jsou poměrně hlučný národ, což v kombinaci s tím, kolik se jich všude vyskytuje, působí, jako byste měli hlavu ve včelím roji.
J - Juan - Díky uměle podhodnocené měně je v Číně stále poměrně levno, nicméně ve stovnání s dalšími turistickými destinacemi v Asii, jako je Thajsko či Vietnam, se o příliš levnou zemi nejedná. Životní náklady turistovy jsou oproti Thajsku tak o 50% vyšší.
K - Komunismus - S jeho projevy se běžný turista mnoho nesetká, vyjma například ommezení na pekingském hlavním náměstí a větším množství policistů, než je obvyklé. Poměrně překapivé.
L - Lidé - 1.350.000.000 lidí je poměrně abstraktní číslo, teprve v Číně si uvědomíte, jak obrovská je masa lidí, která zemi tvoří. Číňané jsou úplně všude, velmi rádi se shlukují na nejnevhodnějších místech, připadá vám, že tlačeníce a fronty naprosto milují.
M - Megalomanie - Číňané milují velikášství, od staveb přes honosná divadelní představení se stovkami účinkujících po všechny možná nej...
N - Negociace - Smlouvání je oblíbenou čínskou kratochvílí a spoustu věcí bez něj prostě nekoupíte. Chce to pevné nervy a praxi, běžně usmlouváte věci za pětinu i méně původní ceny.
O - Ochranné značky - S právem duševního vlastnictví si Číňani hlavu moc nedělají, padělky Armaniho, Huga Bosse či Adidasu můžete běžně koupit v centrech měst. Při čínské neznalosti angličtiny však musíte dávat pozor, abyste nekoupili třeba "Clvina Klina".
P - Pekingská kachna - Možná je to trochu povrchní, ale to je to první, co se mi pod "P" vybaví;). Neskutečně dobré jídlo se zážitkovým servisem.
S - Stavby - V Číně se buduje úplně všude, je to jedno velké staveniště. A nehledí se moc na to, co na místě plánované stavby stálo dříve. Třeba v Pekingu tak stále mizí spousty tradičních čtvrtí s úzkými uličkami a nízkými domky - hutongů.
U - Úsměv - Mimice přikládají Číňané v komunikaci velký význam, takže je dobré mít úsměv neustále nasazen;)
V - Vlaky - Základní forma přepravy v zemi. Levná a přžekvapivě dobrá, i když poměrně plná a věčně vyprodaná, lístky je nutné kupovat s předstihem. Mezi Pekingem a Šanghají byla nedávno otevřena rychlotrať, po které se prohání nejrychlejší vlaky současnosti.
Y - Yao Ming - Ikona čínského sportu, obr, který se prosadil za mořem. Hlavně díky němu je nyní v Číně baskatbal velice populární a často můžete vidět děti hrající ho na plácku.
Z - Zábava - Číňané jsou velmi družní a velmi rádi se baví. Na ulicích tak potkáváte stovky hráčů go a čínských šachů, v parcích hráčky mahjongu či společenství přátel, kteří si spolu zpívají či hrají na hudební nástroje.
pondělí 11. července 2011
Development is often accepted as an unquestioned goal of our societies. We just want to be developed. Critical discussion on this topic is almost entirely absent from the public debate in the Czech Republic. Global Politics magazine hopes to draw your attention to an approach that does not fit the mainstream thinking. Promising young scholars from the Vienna University treat topics such as sustainable development, colonial continuities, microfinance or the Zapatista movement in Chiapas. Their unorthodox ideas are worth a thought for students who seek more than just the usual „aid or trade“ question.
Twenty years later, in the preface to the new edition of The Development Dictionary, Sachs did not change too much of his analysis. He admitted that the ‘development’ has been replaced by ‘globalisation’ and stressed how the pursuit of ‘development’ has become part of the desire for universal justice. It is the South today that is the staunchest defender of development.
Even if the ‘development’ agenda has been changing throughout the last 60 years in an ever accelerating pace, we still may agree with James Ferguson that “[i]t seems to us today almost non-sensical to deny that there is such a thing as ‘development,’ or to dismiss it as a meaningless concept, just as it must have been virtually impossible to reject the concept ‘civilization’ in the nineteenth century, or the concept ‘God’ in the twelfth” (Ferguson 1994, xiii). This “interpretive grid” (ibid) stays with us regardless of whether we speak of emerging markets, good governance or failed states.
Ferguson brings one more and much more serious insight into the usual evolutionary thinking of ‘development’ (Ferguson 2006, 176–193). The racist theories that culminated during the Second World War have been discredited by the horrors of Nazism. The cultural centrism that allowed for the colonial constellation of forces to continue after the war made other cultures capable of achieving the same status as those considered ‘developed’. The nodal point of the ‘development’ discourse changed from the white man to the nation of white men. Inferior cultures only needed to work hard enough like those Asians whom supposedly helped the Asian values, but these too were to become a problem as soon as the financial crisis in 1997 set in only to be the source of success for renewed growth. However, we are in a very different situation today than we were in the 1950s. The emerging markets are much unlike the so called fourth world and as globalization picks its enclaves full of resources or people with purchasing power, the rest is abandoned to its own fate of destitution. Culture does not play the role in the broken promise of ‘development’ anymore. We are back to good old racism (which we never really abandoned) with the hierarchical axis of modernity remaining and the temporal axis disappearing from the usual evolutionary diagram. There are people on this planet who are not ‘less developed’ anymore, they are just ‘less’. The difficult connection between racism and cultural centrism easily visible in an everyday practice of ‘development’, but the more difficult to decipher within the reports of the governmental and non-governmental ‘development’ institutions is replaced by an outright racism of the humanitarian zeal for those who naturally cannot catch up if they have not done so until now.
‘Development’ thus not only contains authoritarian implications as Cowen and Shenton have shown for the era long before Truman (Cowen and Shenton 1996), but its lack results in an equally if not more dangerous forms of disdain.
What is to be made of this ‘development’ era with all its transformations, (slowly) shifting power relations and human misery? While on the one hand, there are scholars such as David Simon or Stuart Corbridge who caution us against post-structuralist, postmodern and post-colonial disengagement from practising ‘development’ at all, on the other hand there are scholars such as James Ferguson, Lakshman Yapa and Gilbert Rist who do not dismiss any engagement entirely, but try to rethink thoroughly various concepts connected to ‘development’ (Matthews 2008). Ferguson warns that there might be no need for what we do or know.
It is strange that Sally Matthews stresses the intellectual work, we ‘the privileged’ can engage in and reserves only one sentence for the change of our consumer practices. But this is a very important part of the misery on a planet that makes our game to be zero-sum. While trying to highlight the importance of our consuming habits I try to engage in the intellectual work praised by Matthews as well. This is the case when I am teaching and this is the case when the students publish their papers.
The set of six texts written for the seminar Post-Development Theory and Practice are just a tiny bit of the intellectual solidarity with distant others here at home. The first paper by Katrin Köhler engages with the continuities between the colonial and ‘development’ discourses. It demonstrates how basic colonial concepts prevail despite changes at the rhetorical level.
The second paper by Eric Pfeifer deals with the discourse of ‘sustainable development’ and shows how the consumption in the North is excluded from the picture this discourse depicts. Additionally, only those solution that are “imaginable” in Žižekian sense, i.e. those de-politicized ones, are suggested preventing radical post-politics from taking place.
The third article by Andrea Visotchnig treats the practice of ‘development’ in the form of microfinance. While it is possible to criticize microfinance on its own merits, as well as from a discursive perspective, it is also possible to consider it to be part of an alternative, post-capitalist, diverse economy. The goal then should not be to call for its complete abolishment but to embed it in non-capitalist relations.
Post-development has been fiercely criticized from various perspectives. Christiane Löper tries to define what could be understood under the term and offers answers to the main points of the critique. In her concluding section she offers an interesting insight into her personal view on post-development which she considers to be a “summary of [her] whole study of International Development.”
The fifth paper by Josefine Bingemer tries to answer whether the Zapatista movement in Chiapas could be considered a case of post-development. Using secondary sources, concrete practices in politics, education, healthcare, truth and knowledge are analyzed in relation to the post-development body of theory.
Lastly, another personal encounter is presented by Alexandra Heis, a young mother, in relation to her study and experience with the vaccination here in Europe. Not part of ‘development’ at first sight, the article shows how the notions of citizenship, trust and knowledge are treated in a very similar way by the proponents and opponents of vaccination. The layman is thus excluded from this particular knowledge-power nexus, just as is so often the case in the ‘development’ practice.
These six articles may serve yet another purpose. Their quality puts the seminar papers of students in Brno into a different perspective. I can only hope that the readers of Global Politics will use the insights offered by these talented young authors to inform their own papers and consumer practices.
- Cowen, Michael P., and Robert W. Shenton. 1996. Doctrines of development. London and New York: Routledge.
- Ferguson, James. 2006. Global shadows: Africa in the neoliberal world order. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
- Ferguson, James. 1994. The anti-politics machine: “development,” depoliticization, and bureaucratic power in Lesotho. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
- Matthews, Sally. 2008. “The Role of the Privileged in Responding to Poverty: perspectives emerging from the post-development debate.” Third World Quarterly 29(6): 1035–1049.
- Sachs, Wolfgang. 1992. “Introduction.” In The Development Dictionary, ed. Wolfgang Sachs. London and New Jersey: Zed Books, p. 1–5.
Tomáš Profant is a PhD student at the University of Vienna. His area of research includes international development and North-South relations.