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The Role of the State in Constructing Alternatives to Development

By Aisha Pier


Post‐development theorists argue that conventional development is a Eurocentric, imperialist\ud discourse with authoritarian and technocratic implications--they assert that it suppresses the diversity of perspectives and traditions in the Global South by imposing Western conceptions of progress and knowledge and excluding the voices of those targeted by development efforts. In order to broaden the\ud perspective of post‐development theory, it is essential to bring the state back in, rather than studying only grassroots alternatives to development. Bolivia cannot be called a "post‐development state," but\ud neither can it be dismissed as a developmentalist state; the many contradictions of Bolivia's turn to the\ud Left reveal that states and societies are too complex to adhere consistently to anyone paradigm. In some cases, we find clear evidence of efforts to move beyond development, but in others Bolivia seems\ud to be enacting alternative development rather than post‐development. This tends to be because of a)\ud the broadness of the "vivir bien" framework of Bolivia's new constitution, b) Bolivian society, like most\ud societies, is so heterogeneous that any attempt to implement a certain policy will always meet with resistance from some sector or another, and c) If alternatives to development must be constructed according to the desires and worldviews of those who they affect, a state which designs and implements policies which might be deemed "post‐development" would have to be radically participatory. Unlike\ud the conventional model of democratic states today, such a state would have to maintain strong,\ud accessible channels for bottom‐up communication, contestation, and direction. Bolivia's constitution certainly contains some structures with these characteristics, but as a state with a legacy of hegemonic parties and political corruption, it is to be expected than an attempted transition to a structure which is\ud more conducive to alternatives to development will be fraught with growing pains for some time

Year: 2014
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