I’ve always been uncomfortable using the words “developing” and “developed” when talking about countries. At a certain intuitive level I felt that that very axis of valuation was wrong. Should the United States be considered the apotheosis of “development” – an obvious ideal of human progress and satisfaction that the rest of the world should emulate?
In light of the many unsustainable ecological and social pathologies that the neoliberal market order has spawned, that seems presumptuous, if not ridiculous. Similarly, to call India or Brazil or Costa Rica a “developing” country is to imply that they are lagging behind the “developed” nations even though their cultures may be far healthier and happier than ours.
So how did the whole discourse of “development” and its theory of value get going in the first place, and evolve into the international ideal of human aspiration? I just had a crash course on that topic by reading a fantastic book, The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith, by Gilbert Rist, a Swiss scholar of development. The book first appeared in French in 1996, and was translated into English only in 2008; the latest edition, the third, by Zed Books, came out in 2010.