Tagged: Economy

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Alternative Development or Alternatives to Development – II

Since the mid-twentieth century, the idea of “development” has operated as both a cognitive category and a relation of force to remap the terrain marked by the colonial encounter and the condition of post-coloniality. One has to be clear that the grammar of colonialism is in the genetic code of the development project. How could it be otherwise? After all, both capitalism and liberalism, hallmarks of modernity and founts of the development project, were constituted in and through the colonial encounter. Indeed, the very first use of the word “capital,” in the sense of the grounds of capitalism as a new mode of production, was coined in 1766 in the context of capital-intensive though slave-hungry Antillean sugar plantations.

The development project is the latest variant of the 500 year-old project variously called “saving native souls,” “the white ma’s burden,” “manifest destiny,” “the civilizing mission,” and “the historical imperative of progress.” Development is not just a theory about economic development and elimination of poverty, but also an ideological and institutional device to consolidate the domination of the Global North over the Global South.

One can configure the development project as the sum of three gestures. First, it demarcates a site of intervention of power by constituting abnormalities in the anatomy of the Global South. Second, through normalization of development within a knowledge/power matrix, a field of control is demarcated. Social issues are removed from the political realm and relocated as preserves of science to facilitate a regime of truths and norms. Third, institutionalization and professionalization of development at all levels is secured, ranging from international organizations and national planning bodies to local development agencies and NGOs. These institutions – a network of new sites of power – constitute an interlinked global apparatus of development.

We can conceptualize the development project as an institutional apparatus that links forms of knowledge about the Global South with deployment of particular forms of power. Once societies become the targets of these new regimes of power – embodied in endless programs and strategies – their economies and cultures are offered up as new objects of knowledge that, in turn, create new possibilities of assertion of power.

The development project is, above all, a way of thinking. Once consolidated, it determines what can be thought, said, and even imagined. The development project defines a perceptual domain, colonizes reality, and produces particular subjectivities. Development is not only an omni-historical ideological construct and a hegemonic global discourse, it is the primary instrument of cartography of post-colonial imaginary. As a full-service enterprise, with confident notions of time and space, of nature and culture, of society and the individual, of the good and the truth, development is a mechanism through which particular subjects and subjectivities are produced. In the process, and as a result, precluded are other ways of imagining, seeing, doing and living.

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The Economic Dig Out of the Snow

After last week’s record snowfall, the DC region and other areas now have the difficult task of digging out of the snow.   In addition to prompting closures of local businesses and schools, the snowstorm brought the federal government to a virtual standstill.  Indeed, today is the first day federal agencies are opening on time since February 4.  Unfortunately, the combination of the heavy snowfall, blizzard-like conditions, and power outages left me not only snowbound, but also without an Internet connection.  Hence I could not even spend the week blogging from home!  But now that we are all trying to get back to normal, at least one question is, what will be the economic impact of the snowstorm?

On the one hand, the storm heaped a signficant economic toll on governments and businesses forced to close their doors.  Hence, the Office of Personnel Managment estimates that the federal government loses about $100 milliion in productivity and other costs each day it is closed.   Along these same lines, one admittedly rough estimate from a Maryland state agency predicts the storm may be responsible for some $830 million of losses in the state’s economic activity.  Similarly, an analyst at George Mason estimates that the storm could cost businesses in the area hundreds of millions of dollars in potential sales.  Of course it goes without saying that, given the recession, many businesses (and governments) could ill afford to take another economic hit.  

To be sure, that same George Mason analyst notes that, based on the economic activity associated with previous snowstorms, it is entirely possible that these economic losses may be recouped in later months.  It also should be pointed out that not all economic activity was down during the storm.  Indeed, many people continued working from home. Still others actually stayed in their place of business overnight to keep their doors open.  Moreover, what was one firm’s loss was another’s gain.  Hence, as you can imagine, local restaurants and stores, especially those downtown that relied heavily on government employees, were hit particularly hard.  As the president of the DC Chamber of Commerce noted, you simply can’t make up five or six days of lost sales.  However, grocery stores and hardware stores saw a jump in sales–evidenced by the very long lines in stores and often empty shelves!  According to the Washington Post, one Capital Hill hardware store recorded its biggest sales day on record during the storm.  Other businesses also may have fared well, or at least may have broken even.  This includes gyms, and even some hotels that found themselves with guests forced to extend their stay–and eat in.

So maybe it is too soon to tell what kind of economic impact the storm will have on the region, and whether or not any losses can be recovered.  Though I am sure most of us are happy to finally have the opportunity to get out of the house and eat, shop or otherwise contibute to the local economy.  There’s a start. . .