The Poverty of Progress? Studies: the Case for Development History Annual Conference of Development Studies Association, London, 1 November 2014 Professor Richard Haines Head: Department of Development Studies & Director: Unit for Economic Development & Tourism Introduction • The expansion internationally of Development Studies and its variants has seen the increased institutionalization of this terrain. • This is not a search for disciplinary purity but rather to indicate the expansiveness and inclusiveness of the terrain of Development Studies for new approaches and syntheses. • A revisioned Development Studies could and should incorporate approaches and contributions from the South, take more cognizance of the complexity of social and economic reality, and of course, recentre the question of what it is to be human. The Parameters of Development History • The argument of this paper is that we need to constitute more formally a terrain of study or sub-discipline within the theory and practices of contemporary Development Studies • It focuses more on the need for such a formal enclosure rather than the epistemology underlying such an endeavour. The latter will be the focus of more long-range and collective work which will need to find ways to incorporate the diversity of future scholarly work • The creation of sub-disciplines and/or fields of inquiry such as historical geography, economic history, and historical sociology can provide certain touchstones and certainly ideas for a future Development History • The formalization of development history will not be an exclusive construct, but rather a site where there is due and quite extensive overlap with work in complementary disciplinary and transdisciplinary fields. The Parameters of Development History • Development history would entail a multifaceted approach aimed at providing more historically sensitive undergirding to the growing and diversifying terrain of Development Studies. • It also investigates a series of epistemological interrogations and shifts within the social and economic sciences • This couples with a growing interest in new explanations for economic and business behaviour which map out the industrial development paths or historical trajectories of particular countries. The Parameters of Development History The dimensions of Development History are essentially five-fold: 1. Firstly, the discipline of Development Studies and its variants increasingly require a more systematic genealogy 2. There is a need for more synoptic analyses of economic development and development histories, as opposed to the orthodox economic histories 3. The local, nation and regional particularities of development approaches and experiences need to be studied in a more comprehensive and reflective manner, with the policy relevance of such development narratives being used actively in development reform and design. The Parameters of Development History The dimensions of Development History are essentially five-fold: 4. The historical dimension is a crucial corrective to a tendency to invoke simplistic and/or universal notions of issues such as human progress, and to work with selfreferential (and thus ultimately unsatisfactory) metaphoric imagery and concepts in regards to explaining and prescribing development. 5. Finally, there is a need to explore the diversity of ways in which development thinking and practice is created and mediated over time in differing texts and genres, both fictive and non-fictive. The Idea of Progress: Beyond the Enlightenment Project • • A more self-conscious and systematic production of development history would seem to be central to the shifting meanings and practices of development over time. Development Studies is in its earlier grand aims and objectives, and its current underlying assumptions regarding the possibilities of human progress and reform, has echoes of the enlightenment project • There is also a need for histories of alternative macro narratives and views of development. The burgeoning work of Latin American, African and Afro-American scholars in this regard is indicative of this. Exploring alternative pasts opens up alternative futures. • And what a more formalized constitution of development history will bring, however, is the stimulation of new and classic debates from the micro to macro levels, in which the interpretation of historical evidence and the quality of this evidence will be contextualized within an expanding and more globalized process of academic knowledge production. The Idea of Progress: Beyond the Enlightenment Project • While the centrality of the ‘people’ within the development enterprise was a strong and continued theme in scholarship in the 1980s and we did not interrogate sufficiently the dynamics of human agency both past and present • Too often ‘the people’ or ‘the community’ have remained a kind of ‘floating signifier’. • The complexities of the human condition and the individual or human subject – mediated, socially constructed and articulated as s/he may be -- was somehow not the stuff of development thinking. • The constitution of ‘rich human beings’ – a theme in certain emerging Marxist writings in the 2000s – is certainly one which looks at a more dynamic relationship between human actors and their communities and environments. • The application of complexity theory to development thinking would allow us to find ways to bridge the seeming dichotomy between individual/community and freedom/determinism The Idea of Progress: Beyond the Enlightenment Project • Not dissimilarly the ‘idea of progress’ can be too easily dismissed as a discourse/s instrumental to the expansion of capitalism and empire, or alternatively as the imagery of modernity. • What is pertinent, and probably under-examined in the relevant scholarship, is how the notion or even myth of the possibilities of human betterment and the associated ideas of technological and social advancement have been received, interpreted and remade over time • Susan Neiman in her 2009 work argues the need for progressive scholarship to reconsider the desire for and continued pursuit of the enlightenment Ideals of happiness, reason, reverence, and hope, ‘Hidden From History’: Narratives of Development Activism • In the appreciation of the play of human agency and expanding our grasp of progressive developmental work past and present, an institutionalized development history can both widen and deepen our current understanding of the parameters and possibilities of such activities • By providing scholars with a more systematic record and analysis of particularity of development work across space and time, we should be able to create more dynamic theoretical models at micro, meso and macro levels, and be better positioned to reflect on the complexities of development processes and challenges • Particularly important for contemporary Development Studies is the question of development activism. ‘Hidden From History’: Narratives of Development Activism • With increasing challenges in regard to ecological and species vulnerability, the predations of corporate capital and the accumulation projects of political and business elites, localized and popular struggles against structures of power and influence are worth locating, analysing, and keeping for future record • There is a range of relevant social and economic theory to draw from and refashion • The question of delving into history to better grasp the modes of development and underdevelopment is underlined for instance by Che Guevara’s coming – of-age memoir, The Motorcycle Diaries (1996) Race, Colonialism and Empire • The centrality of notions and discourses such as imperialism, colonialism and post-colonialism in contemporary reflection on development constitutes a strategic space or series of spaces for development history to flourish. • A key consideration would be providing more detailed historical studies allowing for informed deconstruction of such processes and discourses, as well as exploring their paradoxes and particularities. • Furthermore, the assumptions regarding North-South interactions over time would surely be qualified Race, Colonialism and Empire • The modes and mechanisms by which constructs of such as race, imperialism and colonialism were entwined and reshaped over the decades are processes requiring further study • The role of South African critics of empire during the interwar years in informing British colonial policy and subsequently colonial development policy is but one such series of activities that have for the most part been left underresearched • Also of interest is the shift from the British Empire to Commonwealth and the ways in which the former colonial territories remained willing to commit sizeable interests to ensuring the preservation of Britain within this broader entity Trends, Trajectories and Terroir • Increasing scholarly interest within the social, economic and eco- and biosciences in linear and non-linear macro shifts in economic and strategic processes and the associated institutional underpinning and dynamics, has been reinforced by the 2008-9 economic crisis and its subsequent effects. • Interestingly, a good deal of this work has been in the domain of business and organization studies and HRM, as firms and organizations look to adapt to a world characterized seemingly more by flux than stasis. • There are continuities, the re-visiting of certain classical theorists, as well as emerging theoretical models and approaches. • The regulationist tradition, has found new fields to operate within, including regional and local development Trends, Trajectories and Terroir • The related body of work in the ‘varieties of capitalism’ approach focuses on understanding different (capitalist) development paths • There is a heightened invocation in the social and management sciences of historically-conditioned theories of macro cycles and trends, including the work of Nikolai Kondratieff • Neo-classical economics has continued to diversify and has in part taken greater conceptual cognizance of institutions, agency and even contingency • While neo-classical economic perspectives still inform mainstream thinking and policy, there would seem to be more room for alternative approaches and traditions with development economics and Development Studies more generally Structure, Agency and the Commons • The relationship between the state, modes of governance, and economic development and development more generally, is an established field within (and without) Development Studies. • The enduring debates about the impact of democracy and deepened possibilities and practices of participation on ‘successful’ development outcomes continue to demand more specific studies considering the patterning of history and the complexity of the social and political relations involved, and the inner workings of the associated institutions. • Emerging work on the ‘commons’ and its effects on new forms of economic activity, open up new areas for comparative and historically responsive research and theorizing in regard to such phenomena • The South African case shows the value of historical inquiry in deconstructing contemporary development discourses Social, Cultural and Heritage Capital • • • • • Social capital also offers a useful starting point for development historical endeavour A number of the pioneering and constitutive have a substantive historical dimension. The growing academic literature on cultural capital within social and economic theory comprises a related area of inquiry that complements work on social capital Cultural capital is created and exercised in historical time which in turn provides the means for interesting new research within a development theoretic and historical framework, which can inter alia illuminate processes such as elite accumulation and functioning of alliances of interest. Heritage capital is a nascent field of inquiry which promises to be of interest development theorists and by its very nature would attract future work of an historical nature Snapshots There are four key further areas which reinforce the need for a development history. 1. Among the areas in which a more structured development history could be operationalized would include consideration of the processes and discourses of globalization 2. The tendency of development theorists to view terra firma as the metaterritory in which development takes place has left oceanic space undertheorized by the discipline 3. The creation of a more defined and sophisticated historical dimension to development policy and planning could widen the development planning imagination 4. Given the link of history with the humanities there would hopefully be introduced into development thinking more awareness of the effects of the contingent, the play of irony, and even the politics of the absurd. Conclusion • This paper has argued that a case can indeed be made for Development Studies being considered as a more formalized discipline. • It offers under-appreciated advantages for new theory construction, and would provide key sites for strategic work in the political economic and economic institutionalist traditions. • These factors and the increased appreciation and application of complexity approaches in the economic and social sciences would be propitious for the construction of a field or sub-discipline of development history. • This enterprise would in turn provide Development Studies as a whole with a greater reflexivity in regard to theory building in development policy, as well as in development activism. • Development history would also contribute to a more refined understanding of institutional effects on development.