Talking about development and colonial discourse, I am reminded the story of John Perkins in his book “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”. This book was written in 1982 when the tension between the west and east blocks is heating up. Two blocks are vigorously fighting to get influence over third world countries. The book contains a dramatic confession. He told how the financial donors institutions together with America conspired, regulated, and designed in order to control the resource in third world countries. John Perkins himself worked at one of these institutions. He was tasked with seducing leaders to accept debt loans through the World Bank, USAID, and other foreign aid organizations. This mission was carried out with a group called as the Economic Hit Man.
Further, the Economic Hit Man (EHM) have to ensure the targeted countries fall into the debt trap. After they owed were no longer able to pay the debts, it were obliged to surrender the concession of their natural resources. The trap which EHM uses to capture prey include: by making misleading financial reports through economic calculations and predictions, manipulating fraudulent elections by supporting candidates Pro-American interests, bribery, extortion, sex, and even murder. The last case happened to Jaime Roldos, the former President of Ecuador who was nicknamed “Castro” in his country. He was killed in a helicopter accident that he was riding. The helicopter crashed and caught fire on May 24, 1981. Many media at that time accused the CIA behind the murder.
Besides Ecuador, other countries that finally entered America’s debt trap were Indonesia. After the crisis hit Indonesia’s finances between 1997-1998, inevitably it signed a new IMF debt pact with various provisions and conditions were detrimental to the country. The pact which reflected on the Washington Consensus is an American strategy to subjugate troubled economic countries.
Ecuador and Indonesia case is only a small example of how the world condition after colonialism ended. It does not mean they reached independence as a whole since the occupation is no longer focused on exploitation and physical violence rather through structural hegemony and various infiltration. To understand how hegemony works comprehensively, there are two discourses framing the history of subjection namely colonial and development discourse.
Discourse is a term created by Foucault. Foucault defines it as a way and means to uncover what is not visible with the naked eye. In the discourse, there are knowledge and strength which form a shared power. The hidden power in it was unconscious to hegemony the subject for how they act as expected. Discourse itself does not come from a vacuum, it exists and is produced, organized, deliberately controlled by the authorities and disseminated as an instrument of subjugation (Arturo Escobar, 1984). It was spread by the west to the third world countries through forced civilization. Western try to place the third world as a slave over their prevails values and knowledge imposed since the colonialism period. So that many countries in the third world fall into the western grip. Then its image becomes an elegant illustration in the mind people of the third world. From here, discourse appears as a tool for hegemony and it was intensively launched along with the colonial and post-colonial period.
How Do Colonial and Developmet Discourse Run
Gradually, discourse topic was inspired many scholars to examine and uncover the hidden interests of such submission processes. One of them is Edwar Said. Edwar Said wrote about what he called in the colonial discourse as Orientalism. For him, Orientalism is a study about eastern world carried out by western people (Europe) with a focus not only on their history and culture but also to a phenomenon political epistemology that contains broader historical consequences ( Eiman Osman, Postcoloniality and Development: Development as a Colonial Discourse). In short, colonial discourse is an extension of the narrow meaning of oppression. Colonial is not just physical exploitation rather attacks and deprivation of the cultural, political, economic and institutional values towards the colonized countries where local values are replaced by the new one brought and instilled by western. They lose their identity. Then they were born with a new “western” identity. It was considered as a strategy to perpetuate the power relations of western state over third world countries. This is clearly illustrated for example in the process of institutionalizing English language education in India and South Africa and it was a part of colonial government politics, as examined by Gauri Viswanathan (1990) and David Johnson (1996).
While colonial discourse emphasizes aspects of attack on culture, ideas, value systems in society – which go hand and become an inseparable part of physical violence, development discourse is a prolongation of new style of occupation beyond physical coercion. It was a new form of conquest. The expansion of this kind of discourse is rife after the cold war in which the West turned to focus on providing economic stimulus to third world countries, as well as a counter to communism.
Explicitly, development discourse is a western manipulation strategy that frames their good intentions by pretending to participate and help the third world in post-colonialism. The debt bondage which occurred in Ecuador and Indonesia that described above is a simple model of how development discourse works. It is a new imperialism under development guise.
Therefore, to understand a whole about development discourse is the best way to realize how western perceives the third world or vice versa. In fact, the perception as most civilized country had encouraged western to be a patron to control economic, political, social, and cultural systems within these countries. Its aim is not only to degrade the progress of development but also to shape the reality and self-image of the third world according to western will. Escobar neatly defines development discourse as follows: “In this way, development will be seen, not as a matter of scientific knowledge, a body of theories and programs concerned with the achievement of true progress, but rather as a series of political technologies intended to manage and give shape to the reality of the Third World” (Arturo Escobar, 1984).
Dismantling Development Discourse
According to Escobar, there are three important factors to analyze and dismantle development discourse in third world countries. First, through historical conditions, second, restructure of discourse, and third, the deployment of development.
Historical conditions lead us to the portrait of the world at the end of the cold war where capitalism holds control of the course of the global economy. The third countries which are now adopting the same political system (imposed by the west) were initially given the hope that they would be assisted by international institutions that would deal with development issues in their country. Economic studies in newly independent countries are actively carried out. This is the initial phase of transition control in a more subtle direction. In this stage, many of them volunteered to receive program and debt assistance offered by international financial institutions before finally entering the trap of their power.
While restructure of discourse is operated not only to change the old structure that applies in third world countries as well as to focus on the economic structure but to touch all aspects, including social and politics so that these aspects will become institutionalized which perpetuate and sustain western domination over the lives of third world. This happens at all levels, from rural to urban, local-regional, national-international.
In the deployment of development, there are several main strategies. First, through a variety of labeling. Initially by perceiving that the third world is backward, uneducated, abnormal, and embedding other negative terms. Second, through the formation of professional fields. Here various types of specialization are formed which are directed at their respective fields. Specialization in the field of science, including economics, politics, is intended to make science look neutral so the course of development which is much assisted by elements of science is not deemed politically. The third is through the institutionalization of development. As Escobar calls it “This process took place at various levels, ranging from the international organizations and national planning bodies to local level development agencies. These institutions became the agents of the deployment of development, the network of new sites of power which, taken as a whole, constituted the apparatus of development “(Arturo Escobar, 1984).
In short, everything that we believe so far is the fruit of our past and the cultivation of western values. So do not be surprised if some of us still consider the west as the center of civilization orientation.