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Dadamac operates from a place outside the established International Development community, so the perspective I have tends to be disconnected from “normal” (large NGO) approaches. For this reason I welcome an article  on The Death of International Development  by Jason Hickel, who is an anthropologist at the London School of Economics.

His emphasis is different to mine, but we share a belief that a Western model of “development” and “progress” is a model that we should be moving away from, not promoting elsewhere.

I’ve taken a few quotes from his article and added my italics.  (I wrote about my perspective in Pam – we want street lights! )

The Death of International Development


The development industry tells us that, by exporting western, neoliberal capitalism around the globe, we will eventually bring the world’s population to the point where we can each enjoy a lifestyle similar to that of the average citizen of the average high-income country. But if we take a closer look at this vision it crumbles into incoherence. If everyone on earth lived like people in high-income countries, in terms of consumption and emissions, we would need at least 3.4 earths to sustain us, according to data provided by the Global Footprint Network. If we all lived like the average American, we would need 4.4 earths. Even at existing levels of average global consumption, we’re overshooting our planet’s capacity by about 50 per cent each year, and this is almost entirely due to overconsumption in rich countries.

Instead of talking about ‘developing’ the ‘underdeveloped’ countries, perhaps we need to start talking about de-developing the overdeveloped countries.


We should look to societies where people live full and happy lives at relatively low levels of income and consumption not as basket cases that need to be developed toward western models, but as exemplars of efficient living.


The call to de-develop rich countries might prove to be a strong rallying cry in the global South, but it will be tricky to sell westerners on the idea. Tricky, but not impossible, so long as we frame it not as ‘de-development’ but rather – and more accurately – as a reorientation toward a truer form of progress.


To get there, we would need a number of thoughtful measures: serious curbs on advertising, for example, and a much shorter working week – both of which are predicted to yield greater levels of happiness and well-being in addition to reducing production and consumption. We would also need to roll out new, saner measures of economic progress, such as the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), or the Happy Planet Index (HPI) presently being developed by the New Economics Foundation.

Of course, those who benefit most from the present economic system will not permit these changes until they are forced to do so – forced, that is, by a combination of economic crisis, environmental catastrophe and rising social discontent.


Full article – The Death of International Development