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Book Review On James Ferguson's "Anti Politics Machine"

1048 words - 4 pages

The gap between developed and underdeveloped is evident in today’s world. In naïve effort to bridge this gap a host of aid projects and development schemes are plotted onto less developed countries. But what is development really? James Ferguson attempts to explore this concept in his book “The Anti-Politics Machine: ‘Development’, Depoliticization and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho”. The book is an extension of Ferguson’s PhD dissertation and was published in 1990 by Cambridge University Press. The book is interesting in that it seeks to give the reader a critical understanding and insight of the actual processes that take place when development projects are implemented. Using the small African country of Lesotho as his setting, Ferguson’s book is centre around the Thaba-Tseka Development Project. This book is likely interest a variety of audience, namely anthropologists, sociologists, economists, development practitioners or any lay person interested in the field of development.
In this book Ferguson aims to create an understanding of the workings of the concept of development through the case study of the Thaba-Tseka Development Project. To achieve this he gives detailed accounts of the setting and conditions of the project, as well as emphasize where and how development practitioners went wrong in this particular case.
To present his argument, Ferguson uses the first three chapters to define and analyse the concept of development. In this analysis he implicitly implies that there is a gap between what is planned and what is implemented in development schemes, that development is a gross injustice. This theme is continued throughout the book and can be seen over and again other examples that Ferguson uses. The next two chapters describe the economic, societal and cultural aspects of Lesotho. Ferguson gives a good overview of Lesotho by comparing the reality of Lesotho with the perceived developer’s idea of Lesotho. It can be seen easily that development practitioners and their backers have a different idea of what Lesotho is than that the Basotho have themselves, so how then can developers enforce the idea of what is beneficial onto the Lesotho. The developers’ lack of understanding also contributes to the implementation of development projects in a manner that is culturally insensitive resulting in tension. The planners of the Thaba-Tseka Development Project generalised the culture of the Lesotho people with that of other African cultures and concluded that they are a peasant farming society. This is far from the truth however. The fourth part of the book (Chapters 6 – 8) describes the various aspects of the Thaba-Tseka Project – what was done, how the projects failed and why they failed. Ferguson pays particular attention to the livestock development scheme, the crop development scheme, the woodlot project as well as the plan for a decentralisation process, all of which were failures. In this part of the book one can explicitly see the...

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