Escobar first tackles the “problematization of poverty” which he contends is a result of the formulation and solidification of development discourse from the early post-World War II period to the present. “Development was—and continues to be for the most part—a top-down, ethnocentric, and technocratic approach” (44). For Escobar, development amounted to little more than the west's convenient "discovery" of poverty in the third world for the purposes of. Some quotes from Escobar's “Problematization of Poverty”. Creation of a new geographical imaginary (a “new” place) and new subjects of control. [In the post.


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This took shape across "alternative" approaches including environment, gender and sustainability. All these approaches grew up alongside the neoliberal right, but most were drowned out, for a time at least, by its noisiness.

Perhaps the most distinctive new approach, however — one set on meeting the new right's noisiness with a strategic and all-encompassing silence — was the post-development thinking embodied by the the problematization of poverty of Colombian scholar Arturo Escobar.

Encountering development: the making and unmaking of the Third World

Escobar's ideas are best summed up in his book Encountering Developmentwhich offered much more than an analysis of mainstream development economics or the sprawling array of development actors and institutions it spawned. It was a critique of the whole rotten edifice of western ideas that supported development, which The problematization of poverty regarded as a contradiction in terms and a sham.


For Escobar, development amounted to little more than the west's convenient "discovery" of poverty in the third world for the purposes of reasserting its moral and cultural superiority in supposedly post-colonial times.

Escobar felt development was, unavoidably, both an ideological export something Walt Rostow would willingly have the problematization of poverty and a simultaneous act of cultural imperialism.

Encountering development: the making and unmaking of the Third World

With its highly technocratic language and forthright deployment of norms and value judgements, it was also a form of cultural imperialism that poor countries had little means of declining politely.

But what exactly did he mean?


Surely some planning is better than outright anarchy? Surely, whatever one's political views, when confronted by a world as unequal as our own, it is important to try to do something?

As a glance at his intellectual influences suggests, Escobar's argument was the problematization of poverty good deal more sophisticated than such questions allow.

The first of these the problematization of poverty was the French philosopher Michel Foucault and his idea that power is not simply something that rich, powerful people hold over others, but is produced in and through all the things we do — even things like helping others.


Through Foucault, Escobar came to the conclusion that development planning was not only a problem to the problematization of poverty extent that it failed; it was a problem even when it succeeded, because it so strongly set the terms for how people in poor countries could live.

Told how to behave, poor people were made subjects of development as much as they were subjects of their own government.

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Escobar also sought to channel the problematization of poverty insights of the Palestinian literary theorist Edward Said and his analysis of what he termed "Orientalism".

Said had the problematization of poverty how western constructions of the Orient as exotic and enticing, yet also dangerous, were not merely passive descriptions of other people and places, they were central to the imaginative production of those places. And they were usually constructed either as sites of excess sexuality, say or conversely as lacking in some fundamental value civilisation, say.

The Problematization of Poverty: The Tale of Three Worlds and Development

In either case, those abnormalities needed bringing into line. Development was just a modern way of doing this: Hence it was ultimately a way for the west to manage the rest for their own gain, only ever allowing poor people a future that the rich could imagine for them.

Coming at a time when western universities were in the grip of the postmodern challenge to systems of knowledge, Escobar's the problematization of poverty critique sparked considerable debate.

Coming at a time when mainstream development was beginning the problematization of poverty incorporate a softer, more human approach alongside the market-driven solutions of the s, Escobar found ever more evidence to support his ideas.

As the problematization of poverty saw it, the more the development industry claimed to be improving on past practice — as it tramped from anti-poverty to pro-poor to basic human needs approaches — the more it continued to fall into the serious trap of imposing a western agenda on others.

But if the first finger that people lift to help is on a hand destined to meddle, what are those who wish to see a fairer world to do?

While some anti-development writers have encouraged a back-to-the-soil populism in response, Escobar's answer is again a good deal more sophisticated.

For him the answer lies in creating space — intellectual first and foremost — for "local the problematization of poverty to assert itself. In practice this means one of two things: