In the course of doing critical studies of “development” over a period of
many years starting in the early 1980s, I was often asked by would- be “de-
velopers” some version of the question “Well, then, what should we do?” I
felt this was in important ways the wrong question (see epilogue to Fergu-
son 1990). But seeing the way money was being poured into project after
project with little positive effect on the lives of the supposed beneficiaries,
I was sometimes tempted to answer the question by suggesting that better
results could be obtained if the project funds, instead of being spent on
Land Cruisers and foreign con sultants, were simply handed over directly to
the “target population.” Over the years, several other anthropologists have
confessed to me having had the same impulse. I remember one who even
proposed, half- seriously, that the money spent on development projects be
simply scattered out of he li copters, so that local people could harvest it.
The fact that such thoughts could only take the form of suppressed
impulses or cynical humor reflects the power of a long- standing anxiety
about simply “giving” money directly to poor people. From the time of its
birth, a key imperative for capitalism has been to drive people into labor,
and any plans to directly distribute resources to those who lack them have
been met by powerful worries about undermining what is politely called
“the incentive to work.” Such considerations have long made it self-
evident that development projects should prepare people for such work,
Preface and Ac know ledg ments
Previous Page Next Page