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Third World Countries Development: Pieterse and Escobar Views Essay

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Updated: Jun 18th, 2020

Both Pieterse and Escobar are in agreement when it comes to the “crisis of development” in Third World countries. Both are in agreement, that the disparity between the First World countries and the Third World countries in terms of GDP, and other economic factors are substantial. Both are in agreement that something has to be done to rectify the problem. However, the similarity ends here, because Escobar proposes a radical approach on how to resolve the said issue.

Escobar asserted that a Western style of development must be rejected. Escobar said that it is best to revisit what has worked in the past. He said that Third World countries suffered due to the indirect effects of colonialism. He also asserted that poverty was the result of a Western style of managing resources that was introduced to the said countries. Escobar pointed out that in the past, these societies survived through the efficient use of social networks, and the efficient sharing of resources. Escobar, therefore, calls for a nexus with grassroots movements, as a viable solution to the inequality problem.

Pieterse disagrees with Escobar’s view. Pieterse asserted that Escobar had an overly simplistic view of development. Pieterse argued that development in Third World countries is not merely the direct result of Western influence. Pieterse said that Escobar’s view is nothing more than nostalgic romanticism with conservative overtones.

Pieterse’s view of development as opposed to Escobar’s

Pieterse believes in the power of alternative development to solve the socio-economic problems in Third World countries. He said that alternative development promotes alternative practices of development. This idea focuses on local development. Alternative development can also be viewed as an overall institutional challenge. For example, in a normative approach to development, the focus is on economic change. However, in an alternative development framework, the focus is on the people’s capability to affect social change within their own society.

Pieterse is developing a way to critique conventional views about development. His primary concern is to discredit the popular view called developmentalism. He said that it stems from a Eurocentric approach to development. It is founded on the assumption that development must follow a certain pattern. It follows that there are certain gatekeepers. These are people that are privileged enough to discern the logic, and unilateral direction of economic and social development. Therefore, Europeans and Americans believed that they are more advanced than others with regards to economic strength.

In other words, Pieterse created a framework to critique mainstream development. Thus, he was able to determine that development from a Western point of view follows a secularized Christian narrative of redemption. In this particular narrative, the colonizers are credited for transforming primitive societies into civilized societies.

Thus, it is important to introduce an alternative view of development. A good example of this approach is to go beyond the discussion of macro-economic change. Pieterse argued that it is time to question the goals, agents, and methods of development. In Pieterse mind, mainstream development is unwilling to go down to the local level. He believes that it is by re-focusing on the local level that one can truly determine if positive change has occurred. It is also the means to determine if a chosen methodology is effective when it comes to improving the lives of people.

Escobar on the other hand does not propose a method that will bring about change. Escobar proposes to redefine the concept of development. Escobar fails to make the distinction, because Escobar was not following the normal discourse when it comes to the discussion of development in Third World countries. In other words, Escobar engages in an ideological discussion as opposed to a discussion based on normative economic language. Pieterse said that Escobar failed to make the distinction, because Escobar resorted to creating an overly simplistic view of development. In addition, Escobar fails to distinguish the different types of changes that have occurred in a particular country.

A View of the Traditional Life in Ladakh

Esteva will argue that Ladakh does not need any form of development. This assertion is based on a radical interpretation of the meaning of development. Esteva equates development to modern civilization. In this perspective, development will inevitably create pollution; the obliteration of indigenous languages; destruction of indigenous learning; and the introduction of lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes, and cardio-pulmonary ailments.

Esteva will oppose the entry of Western-style development to Ladakh because he believes this action will only create counterproductive institutions. Esteva will argue that this type of development will only create a dependency on products and services that will make life difficult for members of the Ladakh community.

Pieterse will espouse an alternative form of development. He will encourage human development. He will favor the introduction of reading and writing. He will favor higher education for the people of Ladakh. Pieterse will focus on solving the needs of the people. He will question the creation of institutions that will only favor the investors. He will try to find out the end goal of every action that is made in the name of development.

If development strategies are implemented, Pieterse will insist that related activities must be done through the community. He will make sure that the members of the community are involved in the process. Pieterse will campaign for a participatory type of involvement. This means that inputs from the local community are needed to initiate any type of development plan. Pieterse will favor the use of NGOs as opposed to government agencies.

Escobar’s Paradigm Shift and Pieterse’ Non-Paradigmatic Approach

Escobar uses the language of a paradigm shift because he does not believe in the conventional definition of development. Therefore, a paradigm shift is needed to reinterpret the meaning of development. Escobar believes that the concept of development was created with a bias towards the needs of the Western world. For example, development was closely associated with science and technology. Since Third World countries lack the capacity to understand the efficient application of science and technology, they are unfairly labeled as underdeveloped.

In other words, Escobar asserts that the lack of development is only true from the perspective of the West. It is however, not true in societies that were able to minimize poverty via traditional practices of the community. Escobar also commented that the idea of development in accordance to Western standards is pointless, because it is through the introduction of Western-style of development strategies that has created extreme poverty in Third World countries. Escobar points to the deprivation of access to land, water, and other resources due to the introduction of new social norms.

Pieterse insists on a non-paradigmatic approach because he believes that there is no need to redefine development. Pieterse believes that instead of a paradigm shift, the solution to the problem requires a new mindset that is based on alternative development. In this context, development is measured using different standards. For example, instead of measuring GDP, alternative development will measure how the community benefited from the introduction of development initiatives. Instead of focusing on how farmlands have become more efficient, the focus is on how the farmer has benefited from the introduction of development strategies.

Pieterse and Escobar’s view on poverty and the role of economic growth

Pieterse and Escobar share the same view with regards to the importance of eradicating poverty. However, they differ when it comes to the specific strategies that have to be implemented to eliminate poverty in Third World countries. Pieterse believes in the effectiveness of the Swedish concept of “productivist social justice.” In this framework society benefits from a welfare state investing in enhancing its citizens’ capability to become productive. This idea is in line with Pieterse previous pronouncements that members of the community must participate in implementing development strategies in their respective society.

Pieterse also believes that development strategies must be crafted with an eye towards equal treatment of women. He believes that women possess the talent, energy, and creativity needed to foster economic growth. In addition, Pieterse will ask government leaders to go beyond conventional poverty alleviation strategies, and focus more on designing enabling institutional mechanisms. It must be made clear that Pieterse believes in the importance of an intervening force. Government still plays an important role as an arbiter. However, the focus is on the people and not the end result.

Pieterse will speak against social injustice. Escobar will share the same view regarding the impact of social injustice and economic efficiency. However, it is not easy to develop an argument on the importance of social injustice based on Escobar’s ideas. The problem can be seen in Escobar’s tendency to blame poverty issues on Western colonizers, without examining evidence regarding social problems within a particular country, even before the advent of colonization.

Escobar on the other hand will insist in the eradication of any form of Western influence on Third World countries. Escobar believes that a Western style of civilization is the root cause of poverty in Third World countries. Therefore, poverty alleviation is an impossible goal even if the government will invest in economic growth. Escobar believes that Third World countries must go back to the time when ancient societies were able to counteract poverty through sharing and mutual access to resources. In other words, Escobar’s view requires the reduction of urbanization in Third World countries.

Escobar wants poor countries to go back to a time when development was rooted in local cultural traditions. Poverty alleviation is possible not so much on science and technology, but through traditional community practices, frugality and sufficiency. Therefore, members of the community must learn to help each other. It is different from the suggestion of Pieterse, because in Escobar’s view the absence of government intervention is more effective in the long run. Escobar’s suggestions focuses on the success of traditional methods before the advent of the modern age, but it ignores the evidence of the impact of technology in many parts of the world.

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