Developmentism

The other two theology books I bought arrived in the mail this week.  The one I’m looking at first is A Theology of Liberation by Gustavo Gutiérrez, because from what I’ve gathered it’s a very foundational text among some parts of the Christian left.  It’s a lot more thick and academic than I expected, very dry and formulaic in that familiar way if you’ve read many academic texts in the social sciences or the humanities.  So I’ve been skipping around a bit instead of reading it straight.

I dislike the way Gutiérrez keeps using “human” to mean “good/moral/just,” but I’ve been pleasantly surprised that he addresses the specific economic/political concept of “development.”  Here’s one of the passages on that:

…One of the most important reasons for this turn of events is that development — approached from an economic and modernizing point of view — has been frequently promoted by international organizations closely linked to groups and governments which control the world economy.   The changes encouraged were to be achieved within the formal structure of the existing institutions without challenging them.  Great care was exercised, therefore, not to attack the interests of large international economic powers nor those of their natural allies, the ruling domestic interest groups.  Furthermore, the so-called changes were often nothing more than new and underhanded ways of increasing the power of strong economic groups.

Developmentalism thus came to be synonymous with reformism and modernization, that is to say, synonymous with timid measures, really ineffective in the long run and counterproductive to achieving a real transformation.  The poor countries are becoming ever more clearly aware that their underdevelopment is only the by-product of the development of the other countries, because of the kind of relationship which exists between the rich and the poor countries.  Moreover, they are realizing that their own development will come about only with a struggle to break the domination of the rich countries.

This perception sees the conflict implicit in the process.  Development must attack the root causes of the problems and among them the deepest is economic, social, political, and cultural dependence of some countries upon others — an expression of the domination of some social classes over others.  Attempts to bring about changes within the existing order have proven futile.  This analysis of the situation is at the level of scientific rationality.  Only radical break from the status quo, that is, a profound transformation of the private property system, access to power of the exploited class, and a social revolution that would break this dependence would allow for the change to a new society…

–Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation, p.17

This is a theology book, y’all.

I think I’m in the right place.

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