Many books have been written within the concept of development. It is evident from a historical perspective that there have been different perspectives as far as the term ‘development’ is concerned. Gilbert Rist, one of the greatest authors of his time has written very a comprehensive book on development. In his book, ‘The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith’, Rist attempts to vividly make evident that which has not been seen.
He offers a fierce critique of western models of development, especially those recommended to ‘developing countries’. While he provides a bare account of development, he is not to be considered pessimistic but instead aims to make people aware of the facts of development motives, especially by the western countries. This essay seeks to offer a summary of Chapter 13 of Rist’s book as well as to provide a conclusion from a personal perspective. A number of authors have recommended this book to an overwhelmingly large number of people who would like to understand the forces that have shaped North-South relations for over half a century now. The book has a total of 14 chapters, each with identifiably unique yet related content. In chapter 13, Rist attempts to provide an overview of the preceding chapters with an aim of highlighting important themes brought out in the book. The chapter is entitled, ‘Some Thoughts on what is to be Done’ and widely focuses on ‘development’ as a misrepresented concept.
First of all, it points out the Western countries’ misconception of ‘development’ since they provide a misleading definition. From Western understanding, growth or progress should be an ever continuing process (238). The same idea is still perpetrated even to the present and has resulted in a greater division between nations. The West’s aim is to justify its ostensible superiority in all conceivable human achievements. These include; the military activities, technological and economic domination. In order to ensure the penetration of their idea, they constructed and disseminated the concept of ‘underdevelopment’.
This hegemony of ‘development’ created a ‘false opposite’ so that countries perceived to be underdeveloped would struggle to catch up (238). However, in order to sound ‘optimistic’, the West introduced the term ‘developing countries’ that only served to reinforce the illusion of attaining material prosperity for all humanity. At the moment, according to Rist, virtually all leaders of states have embraced the ‘development’ paradigm. Everyone is talking about ‘development’ yet in most instances, they all doubt this possibility, individually. However, Rist notes that since every belief gets used to periodic uncertainties, they do not alter the mutual consensus attained during socially binding rites (239).
This tendency takes captive of individual doubts on the precept that everyone else believes what has been collectively agreed upon. As a way of getting nations to demonstrate commitment to the belief, there are several forms of obligatory practices (239). The use of conventional ways of defining and solving problems are used. According to Rist, ‘development’ serves to bring forth inequality and exclusion apart from the need to meet the needs of consumers. He also observes that the gap between North and South is always widening. Similarly, the gap between the rich and the poor in each of the nations is also widening.
The continued feeding of the well-off group only serves to fuel the hopes of attaining the same status by the poor. This dream bars the realization that they are actually being exploited (239). The developing nations have been blinded by the numerous forms of ‘development assistance’ from the well-off nations, albeit the fact the aid barely reaches the target group but instead land on destitute authorities. The essay has offered a summary of Rist’s work from chapter 13 of his book. It has brought out his ideas on how ‘development’ as a concept has been misrepresented by the West at the expense of other countries. We can conclude that Rist’s arguments about development, to a significant extent, have the ability to enlighten people of all categories.
It offers a new perspective of looking beneath the surface of every claim and engagements among nations as well as within independent countries.
Rist, G. The history of development: from western origins to global faith (2nd ed.). Zed Books, 238- 239