Tue 25 Oct 2011
Whenever you write something, you hope that other people will like it . . . or perhaps hate it so much it spurs them to do something useful in response. In any case, you want feedback. A vast, echoey silence just sucks. I have a weird version of this with my own academic work. More often than not, I write things that land in the literature with a huge thud. One or two people notice, read and cite it in the first two or so years it is out . . . and then all of a sudden lots of people start citing it in all kinds of places, ranging from academic journals to UN Reports. This has become a pretty regular pattern for me, which to some extent reflects the fact that I have a habit of writing stuff on the edges of my discipline(s), and also reflects how long it takes new ideas to get into people’s work and show up in print (generally speaking, it takes between 9 months and a year, at least, from the acceptance of an article to its appearance in print – so any new idea has to be read, processed and incorporated into a new article, which takes a few months. Then the article has to be accepted, and review typically takes 3-6 months. Finally, after it is accepted, another 9-12 month wait. Add it up, and you realize that it takes anywhere from 14-24 months for the first people who read a new idea to start responding in print).
Delivering Development has been a little different, as it is being reviewed in different kinds of venues – a lot of blog attention, for example. I also had the good fortune of having two people review the piece for the back cover, so I got some feedback before the book even came out. In any case, the reviews are now starting to flow in, and overall they are really kind. Best of all, they seem to get what I was trying to do with the book – which are the best kind of reviews one can get as an author. The reviews (with links to full reviews):
Carr’s concern is that development and globalization, as currently pursued, are creating more poverty than they solve, needlessly producing economic and environmental challenges that put everyone on Earth at risk. Confronting this paradoxical outcome head-on, Carr questions the “wisdom” of the traditional development-via-globalization strategy, a sort of connect-the-development-dots, by arguing that in order to connect the dots one must first see the dots. By failing to do so, agencies do not understand what they are connecting and why. This fundamental questioning of Post WWII development strategies, grounded in life along “Globalization’s Shoreline,” sets his approach to development in the age of globalization apart from much of the contemporary development literature.
— Michael H. Glantz, Director, CCB (Consortium for Capacity Building), INSTAAR, University of Colorado
Over the fifty years since the end of the colonial era, rich nations have granted Africa billions of dollars in development aid—the equivalent of six Marshall Plans—and yet, today, much of the continent is as desperate as ever for help. In Delivering Development, Edward Carr delves into the question of why the aid system has failed to deliver on its promises, and offers a provocative thesis: that economic development, at least as international donors define it, is not necessarily equal to advancement. Unlike many combatants in the debate over the causes of global poverty, who jet in and out of these countries and offer the view from 10,000 feet, Carr takes a novel approach to the problem. He examines the aid system as it is actually experienced by poor Africans.Delivering Development focuses on a pair of Ghanaian villages, which despite their poverty by statistical measures have nonetheless managed to construct sophisticated systems of agricultural cultivation and risk management. Carr doesn’t argue that these places hold the secret to ending poverty. On the contrary, his point is that there are no overarching solutions, that each community holds a unique set of keys to its own future. By delving into development at the grassroots, Carr reveals the rich and bedeviling complexity of a problem that, all too often, is reduced to simplistic ideological platitudes.”
— Andrew Rice, author of The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget: Murder and Memory in Uganda
Summaries of Recent Reviews (with links to full reviews)
The book is a riveting read, horizon broadening and . . . takes a somewhat unusual path towards challenging the dominant paradigm that complements other, parallel efforts . . . All-in-all, a must read for aid wonks everywhere.
— Andy Sumner, Global Dashboard
Development often fails. This is not a new premise. Many have written about it. But Edward Carr offers a fascinating perspective on why he believes this is true in Delivering Development.”
— Robin Pendoley, Thinking Beyond Borders
This book makes an important contribution to critical literatures on globalization and development . . . [providing] an often overlooked perspective within critical development literature: the real possibility for positive change and for a more active role of development’s target population to participate and shape the direction of change in their communities.
— Kelsey Hanrahan, Africa Today