CDS, University of Bath, February
In this public lecture, Lead Social Scientist in the Development Research Group at the World Bank Michael Woolcock, discusses his book International Development: Navigating Humanity’s Greatest Challenge.
7 February, at the Centre for Development Studies, Bath (in-person only). A talk by Rajesh Venugopal, Associate Professor at the Department of International Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Professor Venugopal will present a paper examining a central problem in development studies: why is development so depoliticised? The paper asks a series of fundamental problems: what is meant by making development more political, and why is this so elusive in practice? Why is the technocratic impulse so resilient? How is politics as a category of explanation deployed in development and what work is it made to do? These questions are addressed through a theoretical/conceptual framework of the way that the ‘political’ and the ‘technical’ are constructed as a cognitive gap in the inner frame of the development planner.
Drawing on Scott, Schmitt, Weber, Horkheimer & Adorno, and the critical development literature, it argues that politics presents itself to the planner as a sphere of uncertainty that can disrupt project outcomes. Knowledge production about politics is thus a method to render the unknown/uncertain legible and thus, to govern it by either technocratising it into implementable interventions, or by containing it as a calculable risk. Viewing it in this way creates the possibility of evaluating the newfound optimism among many in the sector that they are ‘finally’ putting politics back into development. The implications of this framework are that the anti-politics machine will perpetually regenerate itself. The work of mitigating technocratic excess is productive, but it is a Sisyphian labour that will not have a clean or satisfying end-date.