Development and the Middle Path: Beyond the Criticism

I used to be a therapist at a summer camp for teenagers. We had a rule for groups: you can bring up any problem you like as long as you offer a reasonable suggestion, too.

After reading The Ideology of Development by William Easterly, I wish I could apply the same rule to him.

In the article Easterly talks about “developmentalism” as an ideology where developed nations and global organizations (like the UN) impose their visions of governance and economics on developing nations. He accurately describes the negative consequences of such types of intervention.

I do think that there is the potential for great harm when powerful nations and donors use a “MY size fits all approach.” And I do think that many developing countries are harmed by the legacy of colonialism and it’s current manifestation– heavy-handed and over-stepping development.

But there’s also risk in criticizing without offering an alternative. As any therapist knows, telling a client to stop doing something never works. You have to figure out what to do instead.

The bell has been rung. The ship has sailed. The cat is out of the bag.

Development is a part of the global landscape. Our interests are tied up with one another’s, and people care about what’s happening in the world. We can’t, as Easterly seems to be suggesting, just “stop it.”

This article paints all development with the same brush but does come around a little at the end.

Easterly suggests that instead of asking, “What is to be done?” We can ask, “How can people be more free to find their own solutions?”

Yes. This can be development’s middle path.

I’ve been taking classes on International Development for almost two months now. I’m learning tons and am so happy to be enrolled. But there’s a lot of articles like this. Negative and angry. This type of discourse has a paralyzing affect, and, in my opinion, isn’t very helpful.

There have been some articles that do give solutions. More on those later.



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