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Developmentalism and the postwar development project: A Foucaultian approach to social change and the operation of power through development

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posted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by MJ Brigg
Project explores developmentalism as a "historically and culturally contingent conceptualisation of social change in order to map the location of developmental efforts" ; also, the project elaborates a "Foucaultian framework for analysis of the emergence and operation of the postwar development project".. This thesis undertakes two principal tasks in relation to postwar efforts to develop the Third World. The first of these is to explore "developmentalism" as a historically and culturally contingent conceptualisation of social change in order to map the location of development efforts. By drawing primarily on the work of Michel Foucault, I argue that developmentalism emerges in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century through intertwined relations of knowledge, power, governing and the constitution of the Western subject. This cultural-historical approach demonstrates that considerations of development efforts should not accord developmentalism, nor the economic relations and concepts which are central to it, their widely-held a priori status. Following from this requirement, the second major task taken up in this thesis involves extending current critical approaches by elaborating a Foucaultian framework for analysis of the emergence and operation of the postwar development project. This methodological approach, based onFoucault's notion of dispositif and his analytic of power, foregrounds relations of power without eliding complexity, resorting to an aggregated view of power, or reducing relations of power to economic relations. Through a macro-level application of Foucault's notion of normalisation, I show that, in the early decades of the development project, the Third World is "normalised" to the standard of economic growth and development embodied by the United States. In considering the current neoliberal conjuncture and the reconfiguration of development efforts in approximately the past two decades, the analytical framework of the dispositif enables analysis of the rise of notions of autonomy and empowerment, the emergence of the microcredit movement and the shift to sustainable development without pre-judging the power effects of these changes. My analysis of participation, empowerment and self-regulation, and the accompanying reconfiguration of development, reveals a shifting operation of power in which subjectification and developmentalist conceptualisations are central. This thesis advances an alternative interpretive framework for the study of development efforts and identifies key contemporary political sites for consideration by development practitioners and scholars.



Central Queensland University

Additional Rights

I hereby grant to Central Queensland University or its agents the right to archive and to make available my thesis or dissertation in whole or in part through Central Queensland University’s Institutional Repository, ACQUIRE, in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. I retain all copyright, including the right to use future works (such as articles or books), all or part of this thesis or dissertation.

Open Access

  • Yes

External Author Affiliations

Faculty of Arts, Health and Sciences;

Era Eligible

  • No


Dr Aminul Faraizi ; Dr Jim McAllister ; Dr Bert Wigman

Thesis Type

  • Master's by Research Thesis

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