The Anti-Politics Machine: "Development," Depoliticization, And Bureaucratic Power In Lesotho

In This Review

The Anti-Politics Machine: "Development," Depoliticization, And Bureaucratic Power In Lesotho

By James Ferguson
Cambridge University Press, 1990
320 pp.
Purchase

Starting with a devastating deconstruction of a 1975 World Bank report on Lesotho, this book presents a provocative analysis of international development aid as it was applied to one large-scale project in Lesotho's Thaba-Tseka district between 1975 and 1984. The book comes to two main conclusions. First is that the distinctive discourse and conceptual apparatus of development experts, although good for keeping development agencies in business, screen out and ignore most of the political and historical facts that actually explain Third World poverty-since these realities suggest that little can be accomplished by apolitical "development" interventions. Second, although enormous schemes like Thaba-Tseka generally fail to achieve their planned goals, they do have the major unplanned effect of strengthening and expanding the power of politically self-serving state bureaucracies. Particularly good is the discussion of the "bovine mystique," in which the author contrasts development experts' misinterpretation of "traditional" attitudes toward uneconomic livestock with the complex calculus of gender, cash and power in the rural Lesotho family.