Development is a popular term, but do we really know what is meant by it? In general it is based on the concept of social and economic progress. How do we reconcile that with an anthropological relativism? Do we abandon relativism or progress?
This a draft chapter of a book I am co-writing on Economic Anthropology which tries to answer this question from a contemporary anthropological perspective. I would be grateful for any feedback. Thanks.
Well I disagree with the idea that "development" is about capitalism's development. This is an economic view, I think, not an anthropological. Development is about human development. And what is "human" here ? Modernity. Therefore what has to be developed is modernity, therefore everybody has to modernize, not to be capitalist - indeed many of them became (and are still) "socialists". And inbetween capitalist and socialist you'll find "multiple modernities", which generally share some common features : economy politics and religion as distinct spheres, a secular and powerfull nation-state, modern science etc.
There are three ways of contesting this :
- in the name of tradition (the good old times)
- in the name of post-colonialism : all these modern categories are flawed, they hide imperialism and particularism (see Ashis Nandy for example)
- in the name of ecology : all these modern categories are flawed because they suppose that resources are unlimited. This justifies colonialism imperialism and is neither universal nor desirable.