The Tale of Three Worlds and Development
November 14, 2011 § 1 Comment
The second chapter from Arturo Escobar’s Encountering Development is essentially criticizing development in the third world as he provides some of the justifications for eradicating poverty from the first world perspective. Third world countries and the term development did not really come into fruition until after World War II when poverty was “discovered.” Countries like the United States and most of Europe witnessed what they believed to be was extreme poverty because they did not have many of the same material possessions as they did. In other words, they viewed them as underdeveloped and in need of modernization because the third world’s idea of wealth and status did not coincide with the first world. The World Bank would then provide an “official” definition of being poor in 1948 when it considered countries with “an annual per capita income below $100” as poor. Thus, the world was immediately divided up into successful and developed countries and countries that still needed much assistance. This attitude would prevail throughout the first world as they tried to implement many development programs and provided many justifications for doing so. This “war on poverty” made many promises to help third world countries achieve first world status, such as the implementation of science and technology, which has always been an indicator of development, advancement, and modernization. These development projects also helped to promote first world policies. For example, Escobar mentions that there was the belief that development could be used as a strategy to combat communism.
Below is a video of Michael Parenti talking about the myth of underdevelopment and highlighting some of the points described in Escobar’s chapter.