Aside

Gem From the Anti-Politics Machine: They Only Seek the Kind of Advice They Can Take

I am starting to re-read the Anti-Politics Machine after some time… and, of course, started with the epilogue — the closest Ferguson comes to giving advice from his vivisection. here’s a gem that remains relevant ten-plus years later, in spite of major political changes in southern Africa:

Certainly, national and international ‘development’ agencies do constitute a large and ready market for advice and prescriptions, and it is the promise of real ‘input’ that makes the ‘development’ form of engagement such a tempting one for many intellectuals. These agencies seem hungry for good advice, and ready to act on it. Why not give it?

But as I have tried to show, they only seek the kind of advice they can take. One ‘developer’ asked my advice on what his country could do to ‘help these people.’ When I suggested that his government might contemplate sanctions against apartheid, he replied, with predictable irritation, ‘No, no! I mean development!

The only ‘advice’ that is in question here is advice about how to ‘do development’ better. There is a ready ear for criticisms of ‘bad development projects,’ so long as these are followed up with calls for ‘good development projects.’

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