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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 40, New Delhi, Sept 18, 2021

Deconstructing ‘Development’ | Arup Kumar Sen

Friday 17 September 2021, by Arup Kumar Sen


The term ‘Development’ is a catchword in the neo-liberal paradigm of governance. Multiple forms of violence have been inflicted on the people, particularly those belonging to the subaltern social classes/groups, in the name of ‘Development’. In the early 1990s, a book titled The Development Dictionary: A guide to Knowledge as Power was published under the editorship of Wolfgang Sachs. Very recently, a new book bearing the title Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary has been published under the editorship of Ashish Kothari, Ariel Salleh, Arturo Escobar, Federico Demaria and Alberto Acosta. (Tulika Books, 2019)

In his Foreword to the new book, Wolfgang Sachs recollected what was argued in the introduction of his edited book in 1993: “The idea of development stands like a ruin in the intellectual landscape”. He also made the following seminal observation in his Foreword to the new book (2019):

The downfall of the development idea is now obvious in the UN Agenda 2030 programme for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)...Indeed, the discourse of development held a monumental historical promise: that in the end, all societies would close the gap with the rich and partake in the fruits of industrial civilization. That era is over: everyday life is more often about survival now, not progress. While the politics of fighting poverty has been successful in some places, it has been bought at the price of even larger inequalities elsewhere; and at the price of irreparable environmental damage.

In the Preface of Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary, Ashish Kothari and his co-editors invited the readers for dialogues on deconstructing ‘Development’ and shaping our life world. To put it in their words:

“This book invites readers to join in a deep process of intellectual, emotional, ethical, and spiritual decolonization. Our shared conviction is that the idea of ‘development as progress’ needs to be deconstructed to open a way for cultural alternatives that nurture and respect life on Earth. The dominant Western development model is a homogenizing construct, one that has usually been adopted by people across the world under material duress. The counter-term ‘post-development’ implies a myriad of systemic critiques and ways of living. This Dictionary is intended to re-politicize the ongoing debate over socio-ecological transformation by emphasizing its multi-dimensionality. It can be used for teaching and research; to inspire movement activists; to initiate the curious, and even those in power who no longer feel at ease with their world”.

Those who believe that another world is possible should read the entries in the Dictionary with an open mind for meaningful participation in our collective journey for a better world.

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