Archive for the ‘Texts in English’ Category

Arturo Escobar, The Invention of Development, 1999

29 octobre 2020 Laisser un commentaire

Development was – and continues to be for the most part – a top-down, ethnocentric, and technocratic approach that treats people and cultures as abstract concepts, statistical figures to be moved up and down in the charts of “progress”. … It comes as no surprise that development became a force so destructive to third world cultures, ironically in the name of people’s interests.


One of the many changes that occurred in the early post-World War II period was the “discovery” of mass poverty in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Relatively inconspicuous and seemingly logical, this discovery was to provide the anchor for an important restructuring of global culture and political economy. The discourse of war was displaced onto the social domain and to a new geographic terrain: the third world. Left behind was the struggle against fascism as the “war on poverty” in the third world began to occupy a prominent place. Eloquent facts were adduced to justify this new war: “Over [1.5 billion] people, something like two-thirds of the world population”, Harold Wilson noted in The War on World Poverty, “are living in conditions of acute hunger, defined in terms of identifiable nutritional disease. This hunger is at the same time the cause and effect of poverty, squalor, and misery in which they live”. Lire la suite…

Ivan Illich, Disvalue, 1986

11 octobre 2020 Laisser un commentaire

Professor Tamanoy’s Forum

This first public meeting of the Japanese Entropy Society provides us with an occasion to commemorate Professor Joshiro Tamanoy. Most of us knew him as friends and as pupils. The questions he asked bring together today 600 physicists and biologists, economists and green activists.

While a Professor of Economics at Tokyo University, he translated Karl Polanyi into Japanese. But in his own teaching and writing he brought a uniquely Japanese flavor to ecological research by relating cultural to physical dimensions. He did so by focusing on the interaction between an epoch’s economic ideology and the corresponding soil-water matrix of social life. He was an active environmental politician and a master teacher. And no one who experienced his friendship will ever forget its delicacy. Lire la suite…

David Cayley, Questions about the current pandemic, 2020

16 septembre 2020 Laisser un commentaire

from the point of view of Ivan Illich


Last week I began an essay on the current pandemic in which I tried to address what I take to be the central question that it raises: Is the massive and costly effort to contain and limit the harm that the virus will do the only choice we have? Is it no more than an obvious and unavoidable exercise of prudence undertaken to protect the most vulnerable? Or is it a disastrous effort to maintain control of what is obviously out of control, an effort which will compound the damage being done by the disease with new troubles that will reverberate far into the future? I hadn’t been writing for long before I began to realize that many of the assumptions I was making were quite remote from those being expressed all around me. These assumptions had mainly come, I reflected, from my prolonged conversation with the work of Ivan Illich. What this suggested was that, before I could speak intelligibly about our present circumstances, I would first have to sketch the attitude towards health, medicine and well-being that Illich developed over a lifetime of reflection on these themes. Accordingly, in what follows, I will start with a brief account of the evolution of Illich’s critique of bio-medicine and then try to answer the questions I just posed in this light. Lire la suite…

Jean Robert, Production, 1992

11 septembre 2020 Laisser un commentaire

The Development Dictionary,
A Guide to Knowledge As Power


A man and a concept

Don Bartolo lives in a shack behind my house. Like many other “displaced persons” in Mexico, he is a squatter. He constructed his dwelling of cardboard, together with odd pieces of plastic and tin. If he is lucky, he will eventually build walls of brick and cover them with some kind of cement or tin roofing. Stretching behind his hut, there is an expanse of barren unused land. From the owner he got permission to cultivate it, to establish a milpa: a field of corn planted just when the rains start so that a crop can be harvested without irrigation. Bartolo’s action may appear to us profoundly anachronistic. Lire la suite…

José María Sbert, Progress, 1992

8 août 2020 Laisser un commentaire

The Development Dictionary,
A Guide to Knowledge As Power

With the rise of the modern world, a distinctly modern faith – faith in progress – arose to make sense of, and give ultimate meaning to, the new notions and institutions that were now dominant. Our deep reverence for science and technology was inextricably linked up with this faith in progress. The universal enforcement of the nation-state was carried out under the banner of progress. And increasing conformity with the rule of economics, and intensified belief in its laws, are still shadows of this enlightened faith.

Though today faith in progress is largely unacknowledged, and probably weaker than at any other time in contemporary history, a definite breakdown in the plausibility of this faith – which many people think has already occurred – would confirm a crucial turning point in modern culture, and one pregnant with threats to the spiritual survival of persons.

The gradual obsolescence of the development ideal and sudden implosion of bureaucratic state socialism certainly represent a reduction in the pre-eminence, as well as concrete manifestations, of faith in progress. For it has been “development” and “revolution” which were supposed to actually embody progress during the greater part of the twentieth century. Lire la suite…

Miguel Amorós, On Jaime Semprun, 2017

4 août 2020 Laisser un commentaire

Miguel Amorós discusses the life and works of Jaime Semprun, with special emphasis on Semprun’s 1997 book, L’Abîme se repeuple (The Abyss Repopulates Itself).

“Cazarabet” is the name of a bookstore in Mas de las Matas, Spain.


Photo de Jaime SemprunCazarabet: As a friend of Jaime’s who shared his views, what impact do you think the figure of his father, Jorge Semprun, had on him?

Miguel Amorós: Jorge Semprun was his father only in the biological sense. On the few occasions that Jaime, a non-conformist adolescent, mentioned him, he accused his progenitor of having been a Stalinist and therefore of having contributed to the totalitarian work of the pseudo-communist Soviet regime. His father’s celebrity as a writer and a friend of politicians seemed vulgar and obscene to Jaime, as it was founded on a big lie from which he derived a good payoff. Lire la suite…

Otto Ullrich, Technology, 1992

2 août 2020 Laisser un commentaire

The Development Dictionary,
A Guide to Knowledge As Power


Harry S. Truman’s famous statement of 20 January 1949 can be regarded as the official proclamation of the end of the colonial age. He announced a plan for economic growth and prosperity for the entire world, explicitly including the “underdeveloped areas”.

“We must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas. … The old imperialism – exploitation for foreign profit – has no place in our plans.… Greater production is the key to prosperity and peace. And the key to greater production is a wider and more vigorous application of modern scientific and technical knowledge.” [1]

Greater prosperity calls for increased production, and more production requires scientific technology – this message has been proclaimed ever since in countless statements by the political elites of both West and East. John F. Kennedy, for example, emphatically challenged Congress on 14 March 1961, to be conscious of its historical task and authorize the financial means necessary for the Alliance for Progress:

“Throughout Latin America millions of people are struggling to free themselves from the bonds of poverty and hunger and ignorance. To the North and East they see the abundance which modern science can bring. They know the tools of progress are within their reach.” [2]

With the age of development, science and technology took over the leading role altogether. They were regarded as the reason for the superiority of the North and the guarantee of the promise of development. As the “key to prosperity” they were to open up the realm of material surplus and, as the “tools of progress”, to lead the countries of the world towards the sunny uplands of the future. No wonder that for decades numerous conferences all over the world, and particularly in the United Nations, focused, in a spirit of near religious hopefulness, on the “mighty forces of science and technology”. Lire la suite…

Enzo Traverso, Tearing Down Statues Doesn’t Erase History, 2020

2 juillet 2020 Laisser un commentaire

It Makes Us See It More Clearly


The protesters tearing down monuments to slaveholders and perpetrators of genocide are often accused of “erasing the past.” But their actions are bringing closer scrutiny on the figures these monuments celebrate — allowing history to be retold from the viewpoint of their victims.


Anti-racism is a battle for memory. This is one of the most remarkable features of the wave of protests that has arisen worldwide after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Everywhere, anti-racist movements have put the past into question by targeting monuments that symbolize the legacy of slavery and colonialism: the Confederate general Robert E. Lee in Virginia; Theodore Roosevelt in New York City; Christopher Columbus in many US cities; the Belgian king Leopold II in Brussels; the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol; Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Finance Minister for Louis XIV and author of the infamous Code Noir in France; the father of modern Italian journalism and former propagandist for fascist colonialism, Indro Montanelli, and so on.

Whether they are toppled, destroyed, painted, or graffitied, these statues epitomize a new dimension of struggle: the connection between rights and memory. They highlight the contrast between the status of blacks and postcolonial subjects as stigmatized and brutalized minorities, and the symbolic place given in the public space to their oppressors — a space which also makes up the urban environment of our everyday lives.
Lire la suite…

Maria Mies, No commons without a community, 2014

Maria Mies, 2011


The present interest in new commons is a very welcome development. It shows that more and more people understand that our present capitalist world system cannot solve any of the problems it itself has created. Most people who want to create new commons are looking for an altogether new paradigm of economy and society. Yet I think it is necessary to look more critically at the main concepts and arguments used in the contemporary discourse on “the commons”. Today there is a new hype about the “new commons”, including myths about the Internet as a commons and that it has created new communities. In this article I ask: what do we mean when we speak of “new commons”? What can we learn from the old commons? What has to be changed today? Is there a realistic perspective for new commons? Lire la suite…

Rob Wallace, Agribusiness would risk millions of deaths, 2020

23 mars 2020 Laisser un commentaire

The coronavirus is keeping the world in a state of shock. But instead of fighting the structural causes of the pandemic, the government is focusing on emergency measures. A talk with Rob Wallace (Evolutionary Biologist) about the dangers of Covid-19, the responsibility of agribusiness and sustainable solutions to combat infectious diseases

How dangerous is the new coronavirus?

Rob Wallace: It depends on where you are in the timing of your local outbreak of Covid-19: early, peak level, late? How good is your region’s public health response? What are your demographics? How old are you? Are you immunologically compromised? What is your underlying health? To ask an undiagnosable possibility, do your immuogenetics, the genetics underlying your immune response, line up with the virus or not?

So all this fuss about the virus is just scare tactics?

No, certainly not. At the population level, Covid-19 was clocking in at between 2 and 4% case fatality ratio or CFR at the start of the outbreak in Wuhan. Outside Wuhan, the CFR appears to drop off to more like 1% and even less, but also appears to spike in spots here and there, including in places in Italy and the United States.. Its range doesn’t seem much in comparison to, say, SARS at 10%, the influenza of1918 5-20%, »avian influenza« H5N1 60%, or at some points Ebola 90%. But it certainly exceeds seasonal influenza’s 0.1% CFR. The danger isn’t just a matter of the death rate, however. We have to grapple with what’s called penetrance or community attack rate: how much of the global population is penetrated by the outbreak. Lire la suite…