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The Anti-politics Machine: Development, Depoliticization and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho Paperback – 1 Feb 1994

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press; New edition edition (1 Feb. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816624372
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816624379
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 2.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 51,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Synopsis

Development, it is generally assumed, is good and necessary, and in its name the West has intervened, implementing all manner of projects, in the impoverished regions of the world. When these projects fail, as they do with astonishing regularity, they nonetheless produce a host of regular and unacknowledged effects, including the expansion of bureaucratic state power and the translation of the political realities of poverty and powerlessness into "technical" problems awaiting solution by "development" agencies and experts. It is the political intelligibility of these effects, along with the process that produces them, that this book seeks to illuminate through a detailed case study of the workings of the "development" industry in one country, Lesotho, and in one "development" project.

Using an anthopological approach grounded in the work of Foucault, James Ferguson analyzes the institutional framework within which such projects are crafted and the nature of "development discourse", revealing how it is that, despite all the "expertise" that goes into formulating development projects, they nonetheless often demonstrate a startling ignorance of the historical and political realities of the locale they propose to help. In a close examination of the attempted implementation of the Thaba-Tseka project in Lesotho, Ferguson shows how such a misguided approach plays out, how, in fact, the "development" apparatus in Lesotho acts as an "anti-politics machine", everywhere whisking political realities out of sight and all the while performing, almost unnoticed,its own pre-eminently political operation of strengthening the state presence in the local region.


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 15 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
The anti-politics machine is an excellent case study about a development project in Lesotho. It provides an intriguing mirror for everybody concerned with development. The report of the local situation, the description of the international agencies' attitude and way of acting and especially the discourse-based analysis of the unintentional side effects which were caused by the rural development project under consideration is presented in a brilliant and fascinating way.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 11 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Highly impressive critique of development 5 April 2010
By autopoietic - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Ferguson describes this book as "not principally a book about the Basotho people, or even about Lesotho; it is principally a book about the operation of the "international development" apparatus in a particular setting." His book is about the complex relation between the intentionality of planning in a development project in Lesotho and the strategic intelligibility of its outcomes, which turn out to be unintended, but instrumental in expanding state power and, at the same time, depoliticizing the power.

Against the backdrop of the swarm of development agencies in Lesotho, Africa, he employs a Foucauldian notion of discourse being a practice (to engage in a discourse is to do something). In a fascinating analysis, he shows how World Bank's country report on Lesotho summarily labels Lesotho as a subsistence-based economy with high population growth untouched by capitalism. Ferguson argues that Lesotho was, in fact, affected by capitalism as early at 1910, that the World Bank is not just wrong, but systematically wrong in its portrayal of Lesotho. He describes the case of the World-bank funded Thaba-Tseka project (1975-84), which was originally designed to convert mountainous regions into commercial livestock ranges by providing road connections and low-cost production techniques. He then details why the project failed to live up to its original goals.

To do so, Ferguson traverses back and forth between discourse analysis of development and ethnographic field work in his method. Such a lens provides an understanding of the reconfigurations, causalities, and particularities of each other. Furthermore, it helps me understand the processes, practices and phenomena as occurring within a larger context of discourse production, rather than appearing to act in isolation.

He could have provided a less personal epilogue, though, which is rather disappointing in highly impressive book.

A must for anyone engaging with development.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A dose of realism 8 Sept. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Ferguson's study of development projects in Lesotho brings a much needed dose of reality to the subject of modernization and aid. While others might stress the need for appropriate technology or bog the reader down in economic formulae, Ferguson examines the ways in which local and global politics influence the success of even the most carefully planned and well-meaning of projects. A must-read for anyone interested in the development business.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Anti-Politics Machine 9 Mar. 2008
By Cyril Fegue - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Ferguson's book is a powerful analysis of the epistemological bottlenecks that plague development policy and the World Bank's approach in Africa. World Bank's economists usually put a discount upon rigorous social research requirements in the way they explain cause-effect relationships of the African economic deficits. With commanding persuasive force Ferguson shows how the peculiarities of the African context are dissolved in a (anti-contextual) cut-and-ready, illogical analytical framework, rendered 'logical' to best accommodate World Bank's internal bureaucratic rationality. One should not wonder why the policies born out of such an 'Anti-Politics Machine' by and large remain in de-phase with the very notion of development.

By
Cyril FEGUE
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant and insightful 15 April 2013
By runningwithquills - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The world could use more James Fergusons. This book was sharp, witty, occasionally but appropriately scathing, and simply brilliant. Ferguson makes the reader question the meaning of "development." You can throw out your preconceived notions of modernity and "development" after reading this.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Excellent book, still applicable now despite the distance of time. 27 Sept. 2014
By Nicholas Acord - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a interesting look into how development discourse is created, what purposes it serves, how it often differs from facts on the ground and what the consequences are. If you're interested in making s foray into the world of development this a great case study to take a look at.
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