Development in Decolonization: Walter Rodney, Third World Developmentalism, and “Decolonizing Political Theory”

Developmentalism is the idea that progress entails the temporal movement of societies along a universal trajectory. Prevailing accounts conceptualize Eurocentric developmental discourses as ideological weapons of imperial domination, specifically because they defer colonial claims to popular self-rule. Rejecting the idea that these historical entanglements exhaust the meanings of developmental thought, this article sheds light on anticolonial debates over developmentalism. Turning to Guyanese scholar-activist Walter Rodney, it reconstructs what I call “popular anticolonial developmentalism,” as a way of construing popular legitimation in actual contexts of anticolonial and postcolonial politics. From the premise that capitalist-imperialism “deflected” the historical motion of colonized societies, popular anticolonial developmentalism places the agencies of progressive transformation with democratically empowered popular subjects. Shifting the lens of “decolonizing political theory” from epistemic critique to worldly anticolonialism shows how developmentalism became a primary idiom for contesting and reimagining anticolonial futures. In turn, anticolonial practices reshaped developmentalism’s very conceptual parameters.

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License CC BY
Type Journal Articles
C-ID POLS 120 - Theory