Jean Robert, Production, 1992

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

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 »

Otto Ullrich, Technology, 1992

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 »