Seeing Like a State suggested by Professor James Smith

As part of the Ragged Library, Professor James Smith – Chair of African and Development Studies, Assistant Principal, Global Development, University of Edinburgh suggested James Scott’s (1999) Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, Yale University Press…

Scott’s work is extremely important in helping us understand the limits and limitations of development planning as the means to order society.

Seeing Like a State by James Scott

He shows how over-administration and authoritarian state power, a blind faith in what he terms ‘high modernist ideology’ – the idea that science will inevitably improve all aspects of society, and a weak civil society unable to articulate alternatives can combine to drive large-scale development that misses the complexities, nuances, and aspirations of society.

Scott’s work serves to remind us that hubris doesn’t effect meaningful change, only humility can. Development means bending to the local, as well as connecting to the global.