Introduction: Theories of Political Development

Unbelievable… is a word commonly used when there is every reason to believe (and very little or no reason to doubt). I now realise this with a higher degree of force as I begin to write on this blog. This is something that I would not in my dreams have thought possible a couple of years ago. If you have travelled the road I have, then you will be in a good position to understand what I am saying.

I wouldn’t say it is the most difficult road, but I am sure it has not been easy. When I look back over the years and see many who had the same dreams I had (and still have) of impacting the world in a very positive way, but stumbled along the way because of the very structures they had hoped to change, I cannot but ask questions about many things… for to ask questions is but natural to any rational being. As Aristotle rightly put it “Si philosophandum est, philosophandum est; si non est philosophandum, philosophandum est, nemper ad ostendendum quia non philosophandum est; ergo, philosophandum est”. (If we must philosophise then we must philosophise:  if we wish not to philosophise then we must philosophise. Never can it be thought that we should not philosophise for on account of this we must philosophise)

If politics is ‘the central and dominant variable determining…developmental success or failure’ then I cannot help but remember the same Aristotle’s argument that “If the earlier forms of society are natural, so is the state, for it is the end of them, and the nature of a thing is its end. For what each thing is when fully developed, we call its nature… Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal.” This argument, so beautifully crafted in that book called ‘The Politics’ makes me realise that I cannot escape from being political without causing serious injury to myself  because it will involve denying the quintessence of my being – which of course is an ontological impossibility.

For if you happen  grow up  in a society where the people have been so impoverished, dehumanised and reduced to near total dependence on the production and shipment of necessary goods from foreign, distant and greedy lands and when its own products remain unmarketable and devalued, when that quality of life is normalised, then, philosophandum est. When there is so much to do to catch up with the rest of the world and yet nothing much is being done, when the job of a developing or underdeveloped continent is barely begun and the work force is idle and jobless – with work to do and people to do it and still nothing done – then philosophandum est. When some sections of the world are enjoying the benefits of convergence and all one sees is fragmentation and decay, then, philosophandum est. When the failure of organisation and governance resulting from the overthrow of primordial societal structures is imminent and chaos and anarchy stare at people in the face, then philosophandum est. When the only popularity a people get is about civil war, corruption, struggles for secession, sit-tight ‘democracies’, election and post-election violence, and when it seems this is fast becoming a way of life, then, philosphandum est. When a people have been traumatised by alien occupation, an alien occupation of their minds, more than exploitation of their natural resources, when their self confidence is so thoroughly undermined and their identity devalued, then philosophandum est.

Within the next ten weeks I am going to be processing so much information using the winepress of critical judgment and expressing them here. I hope that by the end of ten weeks I will either understand more about Development Politics or be more confused – which would not be a bad idea though – since it will also be sign that I am learning.

This has been the first week, and it is an introduction to development politics. (Or should I say to 21st century Development politics or better still Post World War II Development Politics?) I seem to be confused already!!! Maybe I did not know exactly what to expect. It was a wonderful starting point though since the lecture acted as a resume for several theories that I had initially encountered in Critical Approaches to Development. It was a good feeling to have the opportunity to reflect again on certain aspects of Modernisation, Dependency, Neo-liberal and Post-development theories.

The emphasis on the link between development and p0litics is not lost to me. I was really elated at the notion that Political development is at the heart of social science and political philosophy. Unfortunately, my joy was short-lived as I began to question what ‘political development’ actually is and tried to grasp this in relation to the different theories I have recently learned. As I tried to overcome this difficulty in the course of the week by searching for what sages have said on the subject, I realised to my chagrin that they also had a problem – lack of epistemic interdependence – for “It seems apparent that the implicit theorising by economists about political development and of political scientists about economic development should be replaced by more explicit attempts to develop an integrated theory of political and economic development…”1 Could this be the solution to the problem of fragmentation and parcelling-out of knowledge? I am sure I will move a step forward towards getting answers to some of this as I struggle to grapple with understanding why they had to be separated in the first place. Exploring and understanding the ‘Primacy of Politics’ for development in the coming week will be crucial to my understanding how development can also shape politics.

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