Today’s “developers” are like the alchemists of old who vainly tried to transmute
lead into gold, in the firm belief that they would then have the key to wealth.
The alchemists disappeared once it was realized that true wealth came from
elsewhere—from people and trade. When will we realize that well- being does
not come from growth?
gilbert rist, The History of Development
The Dilemmas of Development
The main idea that I have tried to articulate in this book is that resource
development is alchemy. It is more a series of ritual procedures often
doomed to failure than it is a science of human improvement. As such,
development is a frequently critiqued field within the social sciences
(Crush 1995; Ferguson 1994; Peet and Watts 1993; Sachs 1992). In Seeing
Like a State, James Scott (1998) has argued the reason large- scale develop-
ment projects fail is that bureaucratic processes simplify complex local
practices and ignore the contributions that local knowledge can bring
to bear on improving human lives (see also Escobar 2008). Building on
this idea, Tania Li (2007) argues that development practices are largely
concerned with “rendering technical” the issues they are attempting to
address; that is, they separate expert from nonexpert knowledge and
depoliticize development interventions (Ferguson 1994). In his book
Development, Resilience, and the End of the Land
Development, Resilience, End of Land
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