Paradigms for environment and development

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This paper explores some environment and development discourses through the optic of neo-populist developmentalism. Neo-populist approaches to sustainable development and environmental management are arguably the most written about but least funded and is overshadowed by neo-liberal and economic approaches to development and the environment. The paper first examines how theories and styles of development are constructed, where they come from, who promotes them, how they are legitimated, accepted and diffused. It then identifies the specific case of neo-populist developmentalism and its re-assemblage in the 1980s from diverse sources, and in the context of an increasingly strong current of post-modernism in the social sciences. This paradigm is then briefly differentiated from its two rivals (the neo-liberal and classic), and each is located in relation to state, market and civil society, with a focus on the neo-populist one. Neo-populism is in an important sense the most post-modern development paradigm, with all the contradictions which this implies, since much of post-modern social science would wish a plague on all paradigms. It then examines how some post-modern characteristics of social science resonate with the political and practical agendas of neo-populist developmentalism and environmental management. However, for all the talk and attempts to practice a participatory, indigenously based, empowering and just development over the last twenty years also, there are enduring contradictions. The three discussed here are the indigenous/exogenous actor encounter at the 'development interface'; the incompleteness of the neo-populist project in terms of its failure to address necessary linkages between the local and the national and international; and the issue of truth and science (whose knowledge counts?).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-40
Number of pages32
JournalNederlandse Geografische Studies
Issue number240
Publication statusPublished - 1998

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