Thursday, 2 December 1999

From "Imagining a Post-Development Era? Critical Thought, Development and Social"

By Arturo Escobar (Social Text, No. 31/32, Third World and Post-Colonial Issues (1992) p. 47)

It is clear that in the Third World the process of needs interpretation and satisfaction is inextricably linked to the development apparatus. The "basic human needs" strategy, pushed by the World Bank and adopted by most international agencies, has played a crucial role in this regard (see, for instance, World Bank 1975; Leipziger and Streeten 1981). This strategy, however, is based on a liberal human rights discourse and on the rational, scientific assessment and measurement of "needs"; lacking a significant link to people's everyday experience, "basic human needs" discourse does not foster greater political participation. This is why the struggle over needs interpretation is a key political arena of struggle for new social actors involved in redirecting the apparatuses of development and the state." The challenge for social movements - and the "experts" who work with them - is to come up with new ways of talking about needs and of demanding their satisfaction in ways that bypass the rationality of development with its "basic needs" discourse.

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