Vot­ing for change

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & .COMMENTARY - Peter Espeut Peter Espeut is a so­ci­ol­o­gist and de­vel­op­ment sci­en­tist. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com.

ONE OF the de­cep­tions built into the dom­i­nant de­vel­op­ment the­ory driv­ing much of the global econ­omy is that coun­tries in the world may be di­vided into two groups: de­vel­oped coun­tries and de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.There is a pre­sump­tion that ‘de­vel­oped’ coun­tries set the stan­dard for na­tional achieve­ment to­wards which ‘de­vel­op­ing’ coun­tries as­pire and strive, to one day be­come ‘de­vel­oped’ them­selves.

‘De­vel­op­ing’ coun­tries are then pres­sured to adopt the po­lit­i­cal sys­tems and value sys­tems of the so-called ‘de­vel­oped’ coun­tries. This ap­proach to the pos­si­bil­ity and align­ment of de­vel­op­ment op­er­ates in the best in­ter­est of the so-called de­vel­oped coun­tries and cer­tainly puts them in a pos­i­tive light.

At the level of de­vel­op­ment the­ory, this mind­set was dis­cred­ited decades ago (in the 1970s) by the De­pen­dency The­ory of An­dré Gun­der Frank, who posited that the two groups into which coun­tries may be di­vided are ‘de­vel­oped’ coun­tries and ‘un­der­de­vel­oped’ coun­tries and that the for­mer are de­vel­oped at the ex­pense of the lat­ter. He could not find any ‘de­vel­oped’ coun­try that had pre­vi­ously been ‘un­der­de­vel­oped’, giv­ing the lie to the op­ti­mistic term ‘de­vel­op­ing’. In a cute turn of phrase, he ar­gued that in so-called ‘de­vel­op­ing’ coun­tries, the only de­vel­op­ment tak­ing place is the de­vel­op­ment of un­der­de­vel­op­ment, which is re­ally the un­der­de­vel­op­ment of de­vel­op­ment.

Gun­der Frank’s the­ory paints the so-called ‘de­vel­oped’ coun­tries as the cause of con­tin­u­ing un­der­de­vel­op­ment in the Third World. He ar­gued that no amount of ‘de­vel­op­ment aid’ or IMF-in­duced ‘struc­tural ad­just­ment’ would ever lead an ‘un­der­de­vel­oped’ coun­try into the ranks of the ‘de­vel­oped’. But the up­per classes within an ‘un­der­de­vel­oped’ coun­try may re­sem­ble their coun­ter­parts in ‘de­vel­oped’ coun­tries, just as the lower classes in ‘de­vel­oped’ coun­tries may share some char­ac­ter­is­tics of their coun­ter­parts in ‘un­der­de­vel­oped’ coun­tries.


One of the mech­a­nisms that keeps coun­tries un­der­de­vel­oped is the re­li­gion of mar­ket fun­da­men­tal­ism, also called the Wash­ing­ton Con­sen­sus, which has cre­ated and im­posed a sys­tem of trade lib­er­al­i­sa­tion and other strate­gies that gives the ad­van­tage to de­vel­oped coun­tries. I call mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism a re­li­gion be­cause it re­quires a huge act of faith to be­lieve in the in­vis­i­ble hand of the mar­ket, op­er­at­ing through the law of sup­ply and demand, which re­ally is just a de­scrip­tion of self­ish hu­man be­hav­iour.

Re­quir­ing un­der­de­vel­oped coun­tries to open their mar­kets to im­ports from de­vel­oped coun­tries while erect­ing non­tar­iff bar­ri­ers to their ex­ports is a sure way to guar­an­tee un­der­de­vel­op­ment.As per­sons mi­grate to find higher-pay­ing jobs, the jobs mi­grate to where the cheap­est labour is lo­cated.

Gun­der Frank may help us to un­der­stand what is play­ing out in the de­vel­oped United States of Amer­ica dur­ing this 2016 elec­tion cam­paign.

We in the Third World com­plain about how we are be­ing dis­ad­van­taged by mar­ket fun­da­men­tal­ists, mostly in the USA, but over the years, blue-col­lar work­ers in the USA have been suf­fer­ing, too, from the Wash­ing­ton Con­sen­sus poli­cies prac­tised by their own gov­ern­ment. Work­ing- and mid­dle-class white male vot­ers in the USA with an­nual in­comes of less than US$50,000 and no col­lege de­gree have suf­fered a de­cline in their in­come in re­cent years, and ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment, un­der the poli­cies of both main­stream Repub­li­can and Demo­crat gov­ern­ments. They have ob­served their jobs go­ing to lower-paid im­mi­grants (their salaries de­clin­ing in re­sponse) or dis­ap­pear­ing over­seas. They ob­serve pro­pos­als to reg­u­larise il­le­gal im­mi­grants (which will make their al­ready bad con­di­tion worse) and to cut their Medi­care and So­cial Se­cu­rity ben­e­fits.


Look­ing be­yond the racist, misog­y­nis­tic, big­oted, and ar­ro­gant state­ments of Don­ald Trump (which many can­not eas­ily do), Trump’s cam­paign poli­cies are na­tivist (an­ti­im­mi­gra­tion), pro­tec­tion­ist (anti-free trade), and semi-iso­la­tion­ist poli­cies which nei­ther tra­di­tional Repub­li­cans nor Democrats sup­port. Along the way, Trump re­ceived the most pri­mary votes of any Repub­li­can can­di­date in his­tory – 13.4 mil­lion – beat­ing Ge­orge W. Bush by 1.4 mil­lion votes. He in­sists that Wash­ing­ton is “bro­ken” and can only be fixed by an out­sider like him­self. Ef­fec­tively, Trump has cap­tured the Repub­li­can Party.

With some­what sim­i­lar ideas, but con­verg­ing from the Left, Bernie San­ders nearly cap­tured the Demo­cratic Party. There is a grow­ing con­sen­sus within blue-col­lar US vot­ers that Wash­ing­ton Con­sen­sus poli­cies are tak­ing the USA in the wrong di­rec­tion. As ob­nox­ious as Don­ald Trump is, many mil­lions among the US un­der­class seem will­ing to sup­port him in a des­per­ate ef­fort to force a change in their per­ilous sit­u­a­tion.

Many Ja­maicans also seem to sup­port Trump, which freaks out mid­dle-class Ja­maica; but then, re­mem­ber that mid­dle­class Ja­maica has its strong links with the main­stream Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic par­ties.

But is our ‘die-hearted’ sup­port for the ve­nal Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party and Ja­maica Labour Party, with their gar­risons and gunmen, their cor­rup­tion and their crony­ism, any dif­fer­ent from the per­sis­tent sup­port for an out­ra­geous and big­oted Don­ald Trump?

The world as we know it is chang­ing. Do we want real change here in Ja­maica?

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