The concept of society and culture has a long history associated with it, similar to the most other aspects of social science. The culture has always progressively developed with time, and is an indication of “improvement”. However, there have been doubts with the quality of the progress, and how has the so-called development helped in evolving the culture into a successful social structure. There is a school of thought that believes that development of societies and culture has only resulted in failure.
The failed development has had quite adverse consequences over the society too. Success or failure of a project is dependent on the policies taken towards the process of development. In today’s world where most development projects are government initiatives with political motives, the word “development” can be often associated with failure, keeping in mind the complete social structure and culture of the particular region. In the book, “Whose Development?
An Ethnography of Aid” the authors Emma Crewe and Elizabeth Harrison raise the ultimate question in the very first line: “Is development a failure? ” If the third world countries, especially in Asia and Africa, are considered, the development projects had been undertaken over fifty years ago, and yet there is poverty, hunger and lack of education every where. So, the question that automatically comes up is how development has affected the people in half a century? The so-called development projects have only made the rich nations richer, and the poor poorer.
Crewe and Harrison also believes that the success or failure of a development depends upon the gap between the project plans, and their final outcomes. Often, the field staff has not always been able to implement the plans accordingly, resulting in the failure of the overall project. However, going deeper into the issues of field workers, Crewe and Harrison feels that it the opportunities and limitations provided by the society and the staffing organization, that influences the choices or decisions taken by the field staffs.
This in turn influences the worker’s field-level activity and thus development failure can stem from the lack of attention to the field-level workers. According to them, the bureaucratic approach to implementation of the project leads to such development failures, and often results in increased power imbalances, and a predetermined section of the society will rise up to take control and would discourage any flexibility in the society.
On the other hand, James Ferguson takes another approach to the development failures, where he particularly documents the failure of the Lesotho project. The project, which started off as a “livestock project” grew in magnitude with time, and soon the plan was to develop a new society out of the mountainous region, with means of arable agriculture in the mountains. Eventually, the whole “development” project failed. The author attributes this failure to the lack of a common purpose.
The plans grew in stature but it diverted from the original purpose. This lack of understanding between the government and the development officials led to the failure of the project. The main aim of the project should have been to maintain the livestock without much of human intervention. However, with foreign aids coming in for the project, the evil intentions of the government surfaced, and a complete social transformation was planned. The author feels that the foreign aids led to the eventual consequence of the failed project.
After ten years of commitment, the costly project did nothing to enhance the living standards of the people in the region, and it is claimed that the quality of village life has actually declined as a result of the pullout of the project. The project might not have done any good to the people, but the roads that were made during the implementation helped the Lesotho government in gaining a stronger position in the region. The case of Rwanda genocide provides an insight on the consequences of development failures.
Peter Uvin, author of the book “Aiding Violence: The Development Enterprise in Rwanda” documents the reasons that led to the eventual genocide, and how it was the result of irresponsible actions of aid providing institutions. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) had kept on providing funds and aids to the government of Rwanda without any investigation of the social situation in the nation. Over the years, the aid had kept increasing, and finally resulted in the government-sponsored genocide of the Tutsi by the Hutus.
The author feels that the aid given by the institutions promoted violence in the region. The basic aim was to help in the development of the African region, but the purpose was not sufficient enough, as the aiding institutions should have looked deeper into the social and cultural trends of the society. The institutions failed to implement their development plans properly, which not only led to a development failure, but also gave rise to a catastrophic disaster, which took away 500,000 lives approximately.
This is also the largest genocide incident registered in the history, and it is quite alarming to see how the failure of a “development” project could lead to such a destruction of society and culture. Mary B. Anderson, in her book “Do No Harm: How Aid Can Support Peace-or War” presents a similar approach as Peter Uvin, where she provides an insight on how international assistance can become a factor in a conflict-affected area. According to her, outside help, aimed at development of a certain region, can either be helpful in resolving a conflict or prolong the conflict by helping a particular group involved in the conflict.
Anderson believes that it is not possible for international assistance to remain separate from the conflict. Most assistance is given with the purpose of reducing tensions in conflict settings, and helps the region to develop. However, these development initiatives can turn into a failure, which would mean that the aid is actually reinforcing the conflict in the region. She urges to aid providers to take a step back, and look closely how the aid might have a negative effect on the conflict. The impact that is created by the aids often decides the success and failure of its developmental purpose.
If the impact is destructive, the conflict increases, and leads to war instead of the desired peace. Through these four books, the authors provide a similar aspect to the cause of development failure: external aid. In spite of the fact that external aid is mostly essential for development to take place, it is also important to carry on the implementation in a proper way. While Crewe, Harrison and Anderson specify the general effects of such development failures, Ferguson and Uvin has presented similar views with the help of specific development failure cases.
The instances given in all the four books maintain the importance of local aspects while planning a development project for a particular region. The social, political and economic trends are to be studied carefully before implementing a development idea. The consequences are mostly devastating, and reach out to the society and often result in power imbalance and discrimination. References Crewe, Emma & Harrison, Elizabeth. Whose Development? An Ethnography of Aid. London: Zed Books Ferguson, James 1994. The Anti-Politics Machine: Development, DePoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho.
Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Uvin, Peter 1998. Aiding Violence: The Development Enterprise in Rwanda. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press Anderson, M. 1999. Do No Harm: How Aid Can Support Peace-or War. London: Lynne Rienner Coletta, Amy. Book review on Aiding Violence: The Development Enterprise in Rwanda. Praxis: Fletcher Journal of Development Studies A. M. Hassan, Fareed. Lesetho. African Development Bank: Operations Evaluation Department. O’Reilly, Kathleen. Responding to Intervention: Gender, Knowledge and Authority.