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The irony of development: Critique, complicity, cynicism


Korf, Benedikt (2023). The irony of development: Critique, complicity, cynicism. Anthropological Theory, 23(2):147-166.

Abstract

Has development critique run out of steam? While a certain impasse can be noted between post-development theorists and development ethnographers, this article suggests to re-start the steam engine of development critique by attending to the “irony of development”, i.e. ironic predicaments that explain the sustenance of the development industry despite its persistent failures to live up to its aspirations. How one reads this “irony of successful failure” amounts to a question of how to practise critique, what position the critic takes and what ironic stances the critic intones. While post-development operates an external critique, development ethnographers practise an internal one. I propose to transform the latter into an immanent critique, which identifies “moral excess” as the constitutive function of the ironic predicaments inside the global development apparatus.

Abstract

Has development critique run out of steam? While a certain impasse can be noted between post-development theorists and development ethnographers, this article suggests to re-start the steam engine of development critique by attending to the “irony of development”, i.e. ironic predicaments that explain the sustenance of the development industry despite its persistent failures to live up to its aspirations. How one reads this “irony of successful failure” amounts to a question of how to practise critique, what position the critic takes and what ironic stances the critic intones. While post-development operates an external critique, development ethnographers practise an internal one. I propose to transform the latter into an immanent critique, which identifies “moral excess” as the constitutive function of the ironic predicaments inside the global development apparatus.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Anthropology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous), Anthropology
Language:English
Date:1 June 2023
Deposited On:28 Feb 2023 07:44
Last Modified:29 May 2024 01:49
Publisher:Sage Publications
ISSN:1463-4996
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/14634996221115225
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)