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Certainly I’ll never be able to put myself in the situation that people growing up in the less developed countries are in. I’ve gotten a bit of a sense of it by being out there and meeting people and talking with them. – Bill Gates
Bill Gates is one of the riches people in the world. The amount of wealth and generosity has allowed him and his wife (Melinda Gates) to create a foundation focusing on the poorest people in the developing world. The foundation’s mission states, “Our Global Development Division works to help the world’s poorest people lift themselves out of hunger and poverty. Our Global Health Division aims to harness advances in science and technology to save lives in developing countries”. The trigging part of the Gates Foundation and its mission is the language applied in describing the geographical areas and issues that the foundation is focused on. The use of developing as it is accompanied by words such as poverty and lack of science and technology perhaps presumes deficit in capacity. But, is this the definition that Gates holds while using the term developing, or it is used as a platform to encourage new modes of quality advancement in capacity building? In development approach the term developing is the opposite of developed; and this is determined through an economic measurement standard called Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The GDP is a world development indicator used to measure each nation’s income, thus, the countries with higher GDP are considered developed and countries with lower income are considered developing . As the language of developed and developing originates from the economics language of measurement, it also creates hierarchies, therefore, becoming the nature description of nations.
Jacques Derrida identifies language as a supplement that presumes the lack of something and it also influences notions of representation, re-appropriation and possibility of perversion. Perhaps, the utilization of developing as a permanent laden title to non-European nations is the struggle to maintain the Western Europe industrial and materialist model of development or a continuation of a civilization movement after states independence from colonial rule. The implication of the developing language is that it is a symbolic language that creates categorizations. It reinforces people to confirm to a particular perception of thinking, reasoning and interpretation. Thus, becoming one single idea by which all parties in the “developing” states has to confirm to. This subsequently creates a society that is subjected to a specific form of representation and re-appropriation, which is often supplemented by the “moving image of the tongue or acting through hands of others” (147). The purpose of this paper is to understand how the economic language of developing and developed has and is still attempting to create a globalized world under similar principle values. Furthermore, when the language reinforces a dominant perception that makes the developing outsiders who need to be renovated and developed as insider who has all the expertise and knowledge for economic renovation, how much of the perception is a supplement to the historical narrative of colonialism and its obsession with civilization.
When scientists ‘prove’ a theory, it automatically becomes a fact or a language of law. The prove of a theory does not make a concept or a research a fact, but people develop principles and ‘evident’ procedures that convince others to believe and internalize the hypotheses as a factual. Also, the title scientist creates a general rule that exclusively permits certain ‘specialist’ or ‘experts’ the authority to prove the theory as a fact. The same metaphor applies to economic language that gives meaning to words that later becomes natural and factual. The danger with words such developing or third world is that there not socially constructed, but institutional formed and embedded in legal structures.
The economic language of developing and developed is rooted in the foundations of the International Financial Institute. In partnership with the International Monetary Fund and United Nations, the World Bank joined the two entities with the objective of financing long-term projects between two parties – the “developed donors and developing borrows”. Does this language ring a bell to you? Because it does for me! The term developing presumes deficiency and paints a framework of helplessness; it is also quite similar to the narrative of civilizing the savages that was applied during colonialism. It is unjust and illegitimate. It is undemocratic because it speaks the experiences of individual. For instance, in my first class political science when I started college the teacher asked students why they were interested in the class; three students responded saying, “they want to go and help people in the developing world”. The danger is not the language itself, but the imaginary images that it constructs in our thinking. The economic language of developed and developing creates platforms that put nations and its people in place of hierarchies and has influenced the establishment of universal principles. Universal principles have been used as tools to regulate and promote order on a global scale. But who formulates the universal principles; how are decisions made; are the universal principles truly universal, on its doer the categorization of nations produced these principles reveal a new model of neo-colonialism created to indirectly control former “colonies”?
The power of language can either be unjust or just. It all depends on the approach used to justify the intent. Does the intent support the pluralist of the common interest or it’s a claim over values? As the term developed assumes a higher standard and developing assumes in progress, the words also communicate a dominant paradigm – a dominant paradigm that facilitates only Western values in international policy and regulations. This is not to say that Western values are illegitimate, it is to stress the value of all parties voices in policy and decision-making. Or as Iris Marion Young would say, legitimate democracy is one that facilitates inclusion without assimilation and acceptance of other community differences and practice. Since the deliberate intent of the economic language is to exclude, adding new normative forms of inclusion that makes the unfamiliar familiar. Since global democracy is hard to attain due to lack of common interest between nations, acknowledging the value of the knowledge that the outsider has is vital because it brings exposure. The lack of inclusion in decision-making put developing nations on a lower scale and becomes the part that has no part but has to follow the rule of those that count. Furthermore, people in developing nations become objects that need to be studied through research in exchange for charitable goods and services such as micro-finance (Anis Chowdhury, 2009). As the research conducted offers a valuable perspective in understanding social, political and economical challenges, it provides knowledge to the outsider but not the insider (Young, 2000).
Furthermore, the approach of international development does not facilitate neutral terms, but instead reconstruct the approach of making the unfamiliar familiar. The process of making the unfamiliar familiar is a fixation of what is lacking and how it can be improved to the universal standard. Thus, assuming the international standard to be that of the West European nations. Treaties often support the universal standard that gives developing nations zero option to negotiate the agreement. For instance, the Westphalia treaty of 1684 was created to expand international law to the non-European international society with the postulation that non-European nations lacked sovereignty.
“This process of triumphantly completed through the mechanism of decolonization that ensured the emergence of sovereign states from what has previously been colonialized societies in Asia, Africa and the Americas. Seen in this way, colonization was an unfortunate – but perhaps necessary – historical episode whose effects have been largely reversed by the role that international law played, particulary through the United Nations system, of promoting decolonization by both institutional and doctrinal mechanism.” – Anthony Anghie.
As historically embarked, international laws are influencing the continuation of dominant models of thinking and posits a gap between developing and developed nations. The notion of viewing different bodies as developing and developed formulates systems of power. This language places people in the positions of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and fails of start with a stranger in maintaining the attention to the outsider perspective (Houle, 2009).
The concept of international development as it manifests in international law can be both inclusive and exclusive. It has to compile to a specific ideology of political and economical agenda. Even through politics happens to occupy the intent of international relations; economics plays a significant role in pushing for globalization under universal principles.
“The Bretton Woods coneference was held in 1944, as the first pahse of decolonization was about to begin with the independence of India in 1947. It resulted in the establishment of two institutions that has played a certain role in crafting development agendas in direct and indirect ways – the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. These institutions were set up to promote stable exchange rates, foster growth of world trade and facilitate international movement of capital.” _Shirin Rai
As Rai illustrates the principles of development and its categories are manmade but include a certain mode of thinking; the principles are trade based, the motive is to control and include language of power. In Inclusion and democracy, Iris Young stresses the importance of legitimacy. Legitimacy is a process of decision-making; the concept of not using politics for competition purposes but forming an inclusive space for democratic processes. As often the discourse of democracy is primarily used in national – state context, it should also be included in universal regulations and orders. Besides, Young is interested in sustaining and embracing difference; thus, the voice of people in developing world should be privileged and have to be given access to dialogues.
The inequality that exists in the international development language is a continuation of colonial history. The colonial history manifests the colonial powers as outsiders and the colonies as insiders. In this 21st century, this insider and outsider dynamic have translated into developing and developed. By allowing the developed to monitor and regulate the institutional functionality of the developing, the international law is neglecting the valuable perspective that the outsiders have to offer. Considering the universal principles, the insider and outsider dynamic become complex; and this is because the law used in developing countries is subjected to the international law standard. For example countries in Sub-Saharan Africa turn out to be the outsider because the laws are unfamiliar and for the developed country such as United States, they’re the insiders because the law applies to their cultural values and historical context. But what are the implications of being an outsider in your own national state? How does it affect the functionality and the application of the laws if they’re unfamiliar to the foreign state?
Foreign is a term used to describe a person living in a country that is not his/her own (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). In the Democracy and the Foreigness book, Bonnie Honig explains the situation of foreigness beyond national boundaries. To Honig, foreigness is not only the idea of being a non-citizen, but it can also be the state of being a foreign in your own country. “Foreigness operates in each instance as both support of and threat to the regime in question” (7). In a universal principle context, people in the developing nations are not only foreign to the regulations and treaties signed to rule their nations, they’re also foreign to their own knowledge. People in developing world have conformed to European civilization and modernity, which has blinded them from seeing their own cultural, political and economical civilization. Since the consideration for development requires a large-scale industrials mechanical approach, developing nations are forced to abandon the collective substance farming to adopt cash crop farming (Escobar, 1995). The struggle for development is exclusive and automatically strives for a symbolic universe that follows only one form of thinking. The act of giving order indicates a level of authority and hieratical structure that formulates modes of exclusion (Young, 2000). It is a conceptual framework constructed with the objective of purifying the global standard. It is exclusive, creates oppositions, forms otherness and makes the insider the outsider with less economical, social or political unification and understanding.
Most exclusionary modes are influenced by the notion of self-interest and history. It can also be the language of civilized and savagery. In most cases, the language influences how individuals construct perceptions. Being perceived as civilized can automatically give you the agency to discriminate and dehumanize the other. By perceiving the civilized as the knowledgeable and savagery as the backwards we are creating a hieratical language that can be internalized in our thinking hence creating the divisionism of thought that can later be transferred to our actions. In the Spontaneity: Its Strength and Weakness section, Frantz Fanon highlight themes of colonialism legacy, class division, globalization, the influence of trade in politics and complexities of civilization versus tradition. And even though these topics can be viewed differently, Fanon demonstrates how they are interconnected and are dependent on each other on their establishment and application. He also stresses the hypocrisy of indirect colonialism method that reappears in the current international organizations such as World Trade Organizations and International Monetary Fund. The formation and implementation of Structural Adjustment Programs and Capitulation in developing nations was to enhance international relations between former colonies and the colonizer that centered on maintaining the standard of liberal globalized civilization (Fidler, 2000). The programs also strived for poverty reduction in southern countries.
The persistence in using developing nations as the subject of humanity need for special attention legitimizes the presence of NGO. Additionally, the ethics of NGOs are typically structured using the element of gender and race (Miriam Ticktin, 2014). Under the conceptual framework of using an image of a brown woman with a child is a good example of how the language of developing is used as an inspiration for charity. In this context, the outsider within dynamic appears in the formality-structured model of ‘helping’ as historically used by international humanitarian organization working in ‘developing’ countries. The humanity theory and practice framed with an ideology of ‘developing’ other is embedded in the imperialistic model of ‘civilizing’ the ‘primitive’. Thus, the power imbalance that is influenced by historical events instinctively presumes who counts and who does not count. The people that the humanitarian organizations intend to help do not have a voice on how projects are implemented yet they are the one who are going to be affected by initiated projects. The use of suffering stories from underdeveloped subjects allows the NGOs to obtain the income and secure their employment status, but the people claimed to be ‘helped’ are being subjected to the image of victimization and suffering, hence, internalizing and embracing helplessness.
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