Power Prejudices and Poor: Rethinking Development

Power, Prejudices and Poor: Rethinking Development









Development debates have always been centered on the edge of ‘powerful and powerless’ and they become further ambiguous when the two are influenced by the development biases. In the process of development the modernists argue in favor of a common ground where everyone benefits from the modernization. On the other, the anti modernists put their views in a different way: whether the modernization is positive or negative. In other words, if modernization brings a common ground for all by alienating power divisions among gender, class and race or the opposite. Despite the significance of modernization for introducing human civilization into the world, critical concerns are on equities and empowerment. The challenges are thus to ensure human freedom as a means and as an end so as to equalize the human capabilities for the well being of every human being.






1. Introduction



Starting from Marx against the class antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat, Durkheim on organic vs. mechanical solidarity, and Habermas on public vs. private sphere, no social theory is free from power analogy (Marx and Engels, 1998; Durkheim, 1984; Habermas, 1989). Development discourse has largely been centered within the power paradigm. Power of modernization to bring the world into a parallel society is debated against its power to create uneven society contributing to economic, political and social inequalities (Abdo, 1996; Frank, 1966; Ruffin, 1990). Ethos on equalities between gender, race and class has been argued against a power division among the same (Ikeo, 2003; Levine, 1998, Phillips, 1999). Rationale of science and technology has been questioned for undermining the social and cultural values, and ignoring the large social cost of transition (Granato, Inglehart, and Leblang, 1998; Facio, 2004; Smith, 2005). Above all, economic progress for ‘human development’ or ‘human freedom’ has been a critical one in late modernization (Chamber, 2005; Friedman, 1992; Sen, 1999).


Marx argued on expansion of human freedom (freedom to realize one’s fullest capacities) as one of the basic criterion of human progress (cited in Blackwell, Smith and Sorenson, 2003: 153). In The Communist Manifesto Marx looks forward to a society "in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all" (Marx and Engels 1998: 41). However, this requires a continuous struggle to relieve the human being from the existing restraints so as to alter their relation with nature and among themselves. Such struggles continue to exist with the aspirations of human equality and social justice, which requires the fullest realization of human capacities that permit an intellectual growth as well as an abundance of material wealth (Marx et.al.,1998; Blackwell, et.al.,2003).


Amartya Sen (1992, 1999) a modern economist brings his capability approach, which is in line with Marxist views of human freedom. Sen argues that people’s real freedom for leading valuable life is based on their capabilities to enjoy positive state of life such as being politically active, being healthy or literate. The capabilities represent ‘what people can do or be’, and not what they can consume or on their incomes (Sen, 1992: 50; Sen, 1999: 18). The latter are however, the means of well being. Sen disagrees with the utilitarian judgments of an individual’s wellbeing which is only based on resources, but ignores the intrinsic interpersonal capabilities (Deneulin, 2006; Ingrid, 2003; Sen, 1992). People’s abilities to convert resources into capabilities differ based on the personal, political and social factors such as physical and mental disability, tradition, social norms and values, country’s infrastructures, climate and so on (Deneulin, 2006; Robeyin, 2003; Sen. 1999). These factors highly contribute to inequalities in capabilities and thereby the well being.



2. Power Paradigm and Modernization


As power relates to human capabilities, resources, and authorities, it is perceived as a tool of strengthening or destrengthening one’s capacity over the other. More precisely, power can be exercised by the one who have capacity to control others (Dean, 2006; Chambers, 2005). It operates at every level within human society; global, to local and at inter personal level (Dean, 2006: 69). Since human society is evolved from individual, to community and nation, the power functions at different level. Friedmann (1992: 32) in his alternative development approach introduced three types of power: social (having access to information and resources and organizations), political (access to decision making process) and psychological power (potency of self esteem to be able to access to social and political power). Empowerment as an alternative development strategy, he focused on improving the conditions of people’s lives and livelihood that starts from the household (Friedmann, 1992).  Foucault (1982) sees power as a mode of actions upon actions. His model includes understandings of resistance as a form of power (cited in Rowlands, 1997:12). Foucault (1977) argues that power is present in every human relations affecting one‘s actions over the other and penetrates throughout the society. ‘Power is exercised rather than possessed; it is not the ‘privilege’ acquired or preserved, of the dominant class, but the overall effect of its strategic positions (1977:26).


Marx illustrated the power of capitalism to suppress the consciousness of working class and to blind them on their own exploitation (cited in Dean, 2006: 71). Durkheim (1984) focused on differentiation as ‘specialization’ and as an ‘individual power’ so as to contribute efficiently to the whole. Parsons (1964) underlined the role of structural functionalism as an ‘effective tie’ to exercise power, by which the four functions (adaptation, goal achievement, integration and maintenance) are plausible. Similarly, Habermas (1989) emphasized on public sphere as a means to bring power and freedom to people through a rational debate.


Next to modernity, Frank (1966) argued on the power of capitalism in Latin America to divide the world into ‘development and underdevelopment’ through exploitation of resources from satellites to metropoles. Supporting to the views of Frank, other scholars such as Walter (1972), Wallerstein ((1977) argued strongly on dependency theory and power of colonialism to create uneven development in Africa and Europe respectively (cited in Chilcote, 1984).  Marx (1972) also illustrated the power of British colonialism to ‘deconstruct India‘ through destroying the native Indian handlooms and native industry. (Abdo, 1996) argued that capitalism in Europe was possible only due to the exploitation of natural and human resources from the third world that deprived the benefits of capitalism.


In the development discourse, development in its different forms (modernization or globalization) is perceived as a western domination and raising the power conflict among nations (Huntington, 1993; Mehmet, 2001; Rowland, 1997). Development of ‘a few’ is seen as an exploitation of ‘many’ and contributing to the ‘clash of civilizations’ (Huntington, 1993; Ikeo, 2003; Weede, 1998). Nevertheless, globalization has made a significant contribution to the world through trade, travel, migration, cultural influences and dissemination of information and technology (Sen, 2002). Sen further argues that the progress in science and technology is not necessarily the western. For instance, the decimal system was first originated and developed in India and was later used by Europeans for scientific revolution. Today, the mass communication technology such as world wide-web has brought an enormous opportunity to the world population to build up their knowledge and understanding in global phenomenon (Rajaee, 2002; Stigtilz, 2002). Communication through public media such as internet plays a significant role in bringing freedom and power to the people as they can be aware on the ongoing issues (Habermas, 1989). In addition, the civil society has started to be globalized to build up their transnational power for human rights and social justice (Clasen, 1999; McCarthy, 1997; Rajaee, 2002).


In past three decades, countries in East Asia had made an unexpected economic progress (sometimes better than USA to be able to make up in OECD) through the global market policy (Smith, 2005; Stigtilz, 2002). They were able to close the technology gap by taking advantage of global knowledge. These countries were able to set up their own pace of change and even rejected the rules of ‘Washington Consensus’ which focused on minimal role for government and rapid privatization (Stigtilz, 2002). Such progress achieved by these nations with economic interrelations and modern technology can be taken by other nations as well.


Above all, the western civilization that has been introduced to the modern world through globalization can hardly be undermined for emancipating the world’s population from social, political, and economic oppression (Rajaee, 2002; Stigtilz, 2002). In view of these arguments, one can not stress that the globalization or modernization as a negative enforcement from the western world. In addition, globalization itself is not an outcome but a process.



3. Modernization and Development


The assumptions of modernization theory are: a) economic growth benefits all members of society through trickle down effect, b) macro economic policies are gender neutral, and c) the modern technologies are superior to the traditional (Conneley, Li, Mac Donald, and Parpart, 2000). The economic policy of global financial institutions (IMF, World Bank, USAID) is dominated by these assumptions.


Accordingly, three basic developments in modernization over the four decades include capitalization of world agriculture (investment on larger productive lands eliminating the subsistence lands), technology development (maximizing the ability to transform the earth resources into usable commodities:  industrialization) and institutional development (emphasizing on organizational structures of state and corporate institutions: process of bureaucratization) (Wallerstein, 1998: 288). Such development envisages another form of development. For instance, subsistence farmers from larger part of the world concentrate on urban areas for work: urbanization, resources tend to be focused on core areas for their productive and profitable use and leaves periphery to remain underdeveloped (Wallerstein, 1998).


As opposed to the theory of modernization, Frank (1966) clarified that it is the utilization of the economic surplus (that has been centralized from satellites to metropolis), which has resulted development and underdevelopment. Due to the monopoly structure of world capitalist system, the capitalist countries were able to expropriate the surplus from underdeveloped countries while preventing them to realize the surplus. He illustrated this chain flow of the surplus from the remotest Latin American village to metropolis of New York (Frank, 1966; Frank, 1967).


As a custom of dependency theory, the privileged nations tend to contribute towards underdevelopment so as to benefit through international economic order (Chilcote1984; Robinson, 1979; Weede, 1998). For instance, closing of all textile factories in India during the British colony caused a huge socio-economic loss to the country as indicated earlier. Similarly, African nations became underdeveloped with the colonization from Europe (Chilcote, 1984). The colonial and capitalist system of development is not parallel to development but ‘uneven development’ that contributed to polarization and exploitation of resources from satellites to metropolis (Frank, 1966; Chilcote, 1984; Ruffin, 1990).


Although used as a new development strategy, neo-liberalism still follows the capitalist path of development ignoring the diverse contexts of development (Brohman, 1995; Mehmet, 1995; Wylie, 2000). For instance, the neo-liberal model emphasizes ‘market-led growth, increased savings and private investment based on high profits, low wages; gradual industrialization, and outward-oriented development’ (Brohman, 1996:31). These set of policies are regulated by the multilateral institutions, which exert global governance without considering the socio-cultural circumstances of the recipient countries (Brohman, 1996; Hartwick and Peet, 2003). Accordingly, globalization has given a rise to global capitalism and multilateral institutions have gained a super economic and political power over the national and local institutions (Berberoglu, 2005; Dean, 2006; Applebaum and Robinson, 2005). The neo liberal model of development simplifies the complex process of development, however, excludes much of the developing world, which is based on subsistence economy, or landless rural workers and rapidly growing numbers of urban laborers (Friedmann, 1992:14).




4. Modernization towards Equities:


Notwithstanding the positive influence of globalization especially among the developed nations, there are some critical concerns (Bello, 2002, Henderson, 2005; Smith, 2005). More than an economic efficiency, the most important aspects are; a) how the economic prosperity has been used for human welfare, b) how the global forces are used to reconcile the equities among nations, community and individual and, c) how the global policy has taken its steps towards institutional reforms (Bello, 2002; Clasen 1999; Deacon, Hulse and Stubbs, 1997). The question is not whether globalization brings potential benefits to all including the disadvantaged, but whether they share the equal gains (Bello, 2002; Hajjar 2005; Sen, 2002). One does not need to emphasize that there has been vast disparities in distribution of wealth, and unevenness in political, economic and social opportunities and power (Phillips, 1999; Ruffin, 1990; Sen, 2002).


The inequalities are growing larger not only at international level but within intra national. For instance, in 1992, UN found that 83 percent of the world’s wealth was concentrated in the North benefiting 20 percent of the world population. The distribution of wealth within countries indicates that richest 20 percent of the world people are 150 times richer than the poorest 20 percent (Blackwell, Smith and Sorenson, 2003: 88).


The global governance has in fact, created a class conflict of state permitting to grow working class as a result of mass production and specialization, and low wage policy (Berberoglou, 2005; Ruffin, 1990; Levine, 1998). Many countries in the third world such as Cuba and Latin America have passed through this stage of transition following the industrial revolution (Ruffin, 1990). In addition, the modern technologies initiated by bilateral and multilateral institutions have been used at the expense of local communities (Kazmin and Penh, 2002; Vivian, 1992). For instance, construction of large hydro dams around Mekhong river in China has destroyed the large settlement in periphery, local vegetation and the bio system affecting the whole socioeconomic settings of the local community (Kazmin and Penh, 2002). Similarly, government supported logging activities in Malaysia threatened the livelihood of the communities of the rainforests in Sarawak, while the benefits were channeled to elites outside the region. These experiences were repeated in India, Thailand, Philippines, and Brazil (Vivian, 1992: 74). Friedmann (1992: 124) has focused on ‘intergenerational equity or fairness in the distribution of environmental costs and benefits’. His notion of an alternative development respects the ‘traditions of territorial communities, and historical continuity’ that indicates individual and collective identity (1992:124).


Gender based inequalities has rather increased due to increase in women’s subordinate roles in the household and in the market arena, as they entered into more labor force in the world of technology (Agrawal, 1985; Bracke, 2004; Mies, 1986). Development of modern technology has led to undermine traditional, indigenous knowledge and skill which mostly comes from women as a strategy for their survival (Car and Sandhu, 1988).


The politics of identity has created hegemony over the nations of huge diversities such as ethnic, religious and cultural (Philips, 1999; Jacobs, 2004). Although multiculturalism has been accredited, the cultural identities of sub nations, communities, and individuals such as Muslims are still subject to a threat and risk in Europe and North America (Jacobs, 2004: 131).  



5. Feminist Perspectives towards Modernization:


The modernization approach has mainstreamed neoclassical economics that emphasizes on competitive market and efficiency, and sees all the human suffering as transitional cost (Mies, 1986; Nelson, 2005). Feminists’ concern over neo-classical economics has been on the (Gross domestic Production) GDP model, which discounts subsistence and informal economic activity, and the unpaid domestic work which is mostly done by women. In addition, the mathematical model of GDP does not consider power differentials, role of customs, institutions, and most importantly the human factor (Mies, 1986; Nelson, 2005). Contrary to the capitalists’ view of production, which only focuses on output, feminists tend to analyze the forces of production that involves processes e.g. relation between human and nature (Mies and Shiva, 1993; Omvedt and Kelkar 1995). This is in line with Marxist view of production who characterized the capitalists’ economy as an inherent nature of capital accumulation (Marx and Engles, 1998). Other sociologists such as Weber indicated such economy as an iron cage, and Habermas distinguished between the ‘lifeworld’ of communication with subjectivity, responsibility and a ‘system’ arena driven by unconscious objectifying forces (Weber, 1978; Habermas, 1989).


Modernization has essentially initiated larger gender discrimination in the south (Agrawal, 1994; Attanasio and Szekely, 2001; Mies and Shiva, 1993). For instance, short term and long term migration due to the urbanization has increased women headed households leading to intra household disparities (e.g. gender role and labor distribution) (Agrawal, 1994; Attanasio and Szekely, 2001; Parrenas, 2005). In addition, such migration for urban labor force as well as global work force has increasingly affected emotional and social well being of the women and children (Parrenas, 2005; Pyle, 2005). Mass production and specialization in production has assigned women into more labor force as unskilled labor and their dual role has increased (Agrawal, 1994; Mies and Shiva, 1993). Women’s alienation from modern technology is considered as a product of the historical and cultural construction of technology as masculine (Cockburn and Ormund, 1993; Wajcman, 1991). For instance, modern industrial revolutions, such as Green revolution has especially disadvantaged women through dismissal of women labor due to mechanization in agriculture (Agrawal, 1985: 112). Chipko movement in India was against the ecological revolution that destroyed the women’s relation to nature as large number of Indian forests was destroyed for commerce and industry (Mies and Shiva, 1993: 2). Similarly increase in commercial and illegal logging in the third world, has given a rise to women’s drudgery as they rely on resources from nature for their living (e.g. fuel, food and livestock feeding) (Vivian 1992: 72).


While western women are more at work as equal as men, however, less equal in sharing domestic responsibilities (Bracke, 2004: 98). In industrialized countries of Asia, Americas and Europe, increase in women’s share of labor market participation has not led to drastic changes on traditional household division of labor (Bracke, 2004; Parrenas, 2005: Phillips, 1999). As a result, women are bearing the larger cost of social reproduction in capitalist society (Werlhoff, 1988; Thomson, 1988). In addition, women’s role in household production is perceived as a forced labor enforced by the existing social mechanism such as women’s sole responsibility as mothers for caring their children, and women as a secondary source of income (Thomsen, 1988:121). Accordingly, more than 80 percent of women in North America choose jobs and career that accommodate the demands of domestic labor (Jacobs, 2004: 215). This has a double disadvantage for women: a) it has a negative effect on their children as they enter into second shift job and b) the second shift job is invisible and unrecognized at workplace (Jacobs, 2004).




6. Identity and Modernization


The anti modernists have also reexamined the practices through which Western nations have imposed modernization on, and exerted control over the South in the postcolonial era. These practices include labeling, such as, ‘backward’ and ‘underdeveloped’; and arranging experts, projects, and programs for their development so as to integrate them into modernization (Conneley, Li, Mac Donald, and Parpart, 2000). As indicated earlier,  the capitalist system of development tend to contribute to such labeling as ‘backward’ and ‘underdeveloped’ through their strategy to redistribution of surplus from satellites to metropolis (Frank, 1966; Robinson, 1979; Ruffin, 1990). These labeling justifies the differentials in wealth and power between the developed and underdeveloped nations (Blackwell, Smith and Sorenson, 2003).


Especially at individual level, when they are labeled as ‘single parent’, ‘poor’ or ‘low class’, they are often degraded from the natural human being (Conneley, Li, Mac Donald, and Parpart, 2000; Howard, 1995). The process by which individual is differentiated is highly significant because they often include unnatural factors. Howard (1995: 166) pointed out that ‘the most degrading characteristic one can possess in modern north American society is to be part of the class of permanently poor’ as they are labeled as ‘less dignified’ people. The culture of capitalism measures persons’ status by their ability to produce wealth, but disregards the processes, by which, human freedoms (leading to their capabilities) are restricted (Howard, 1995; Sen, 1999). Howard further comments that the structural factors in capitalist society largely prevent people for acting efficiently, while those victims of capitalism are blamed for their own fate. Sen (1999) also underlines that absence of economic, political and social freedoms perpetuates social inequalities among gender, race and ethnicities. 


The hegemony of common identity that has been advocated in the modernized world has been largely debated by the scholars both from the north and south (Bannerji, 1995; Jacobs, 2004; Simpson, 1998). Bannerji (1995) points out that identity has been a ‘common political vocabulary’ in North American society and the process of defining it goes beyond individual, to ‘historical and a collective’ process. However, many concerns are on exclusion than for creating a community. For instance, in North America and Europe, a most extreme racist argument linking ‘race with intelligence’ is claimed by most respectable academics (Blackwell, Smith and Sorenson, 2003: 43). The racial identity (based on physical and cultural characteristics) justifies one’s superiority over another race and allows some groups to have more wealth and power because of their genetic characteristics and not because of social and political conditions (Blackwell, et.al., 2003). Such practices help to promote social stratification and inequalities (e.g. less investment for less intelligent). Simpson (1998: 2) illustrates how black races were discriminated in USA in post civil rights generation and cited an example of teacher’s and staff’s ignorance of books about blacks in the library that were demanded by the black kids.


McCarthy (1997) outlined that transnational identities can be formed through global integration especially by increasing personal contacts and communication. However, such contacts can also reinforce nationalists or sub nationalists identities, and activist identities such as Islamic terrorists (1997: 248). He relates the transnational identity with transnational activism, which requires the source of motivation for activism. Jacobs (2004) sees the role of integration to provide access to minority groups to participate in the mainstream institutions of civil society and governance. However, such integration may cause a diversity threatening to their cultural identity (2004:131). The rhetoric of national identity can undermine the legitimacy of sub cultural identities such as ‘aboriginals’ in Australia and ‘Maori’ in New Zealand (Augustinos and Reylonds, 2001). On the other, construction of such identities as divisive can also cause a threat to the national identity (Augustinos et.al. 2001).



7. Development Paradigm and Social Policy


Development in modern era has brought a radical paradigm shift as indicated in Human Development Report (cited in Chambers, 2005). Unlike in the past, development symbolized an economic growth transforming the ‘underdeveloped to developed’ through industrial revolution, it focuses on human development permitting people to achieve their well being through overall economic, social, and cultural  progress (Chambers, 2005; Denuelin, 2006). Chambers (2005: 193) in his development vision puts emphasis on ‘livelihood and capabilities’ as both ends and means, and ‘well being’ as an overarching end. Livelihood is based on two principles: equity and sustainability that qualify the livelihood to become secured and responsible (Chambers, 2005).


Sen (1999) visions development ‘as a removal of various types of unfreedoms that leave people with little choice and little opportunity of exercising their reasoned agency’ (1999: xii). The focus is on personal dimensions that shape individual’s capabilities and their well being (Sen, 1992; Sen, 1999). Thus in an ideal society an effort should be made to equalize the human capabilities (which depends on freedoms both as a means and as an end) and not the goods per se (De Martino, 2000; Deneulin, 2006; Sen, 1999).


Lately, social development has been a new theory of development emphasizing on development of social and human capital. OECD (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development) has focused on social development as a strategy for capacity development at local, regional and national level (Deacon, Hulse and Stubbs, 1997; Gomez, 1999). An underlying assumption is that development of social capital (capacity of collective entity to make competent decisions) and human capital (individual capacity to make effective decisions) enables to strengthen the capacities of individuals, groups and whole societies to learn, adapt and cooperate (Gomez, 1999). Following the World Summit for Social Development (WSSD), UN has insisted on social policy emphasizing on orientation of values, objectives and priorities towards the well-being of all and strengthening capacity of institutions and policies (cited in Gomez, 1999). Thus two policy implications of social development are: a) welfare state model is inappropriate in many countries to meet the social needs, b) poverty is only a part of the problem (Gomez, 1999).